About 30 of the nation’s governors meeting today (Monday) in Des Moines expressed their concerns about making states convert drivers licenses into new, national I.D. card.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, was among the most vocal. “States are essentially being asked to do a federal responsibility because the federal government doesn’t have the courage to do what they feel like must be done and that’s have a national ID system,” Huckabee says. “It’s going to cause states to incur enormous cost without reimbursement or consideration. I think it’s a very ill-conceived and hastily-presented approach that will prove disastrous.” Huckabee says Congress stuffed the idea at the last minute into a defense spending bill.
“I don’t think they realize that by voting for that…they have created a national nightmare for their own states,” Huckabee says. “They probably will be driving up the cost of a drivers license three- and four-fold.” Some governors suggested it might cost as much as one-hundred dollars to get your drivers license if it is also to serve as a new, national I.D.
Iowa’s Governor, Tom Vilsack, says D-O-T licensing stations may have to be equipped with things like a metal detector. “We’re not sure exactly how much security we’re going to have to have at every DOT license station in the state, nor are we fully comfortable with the qualifications for the D.O.T. personnel who will be issuing drivers licenses since they are going to have to be make some determination about the legality and status of individuals applying for drivers licenses, so they have all of a sudden become quasi-immigration officials,” Vilsack says. In addition, it’s not clear whether you would have to pay full-price and go through a background check again for a new drivers’ license if you move. “It’s a really complicated issue which suggests that perhaps more thought should have gone into this before this mandate was established,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack and the other governors aired their complaints in a private meeting this (Monday) morning with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who’s had the job since March. “This is merely the first installment…in a long series of conversations I look forward to having with our states’ chief executives,” Chertoff told reporters after the meeting. The “real I.D.” system must be in place within three years, and Chertoff says that gives officials some time to tweak things. For example, Chertoff says they’ll have to come up with a list of the kinds of documents needed to verify citizenship.
Chertoff suggests a national I.D. could be a convenience for Americans. It might also provide more security, according to Chertoff. “I think people are rightly concerned about identity theft and about securing their own privacy and having a reliable, good drivers license is one way to serve those needs,” Chertoff says. He promised the governors they would be involved in developing the rules for implementing the new I.D. system. “The idea of getting (the governors) involved early on is part of the process of designing something that takes account of everybody’s concerns as opposed to having the federal government simply go off quietly in a room, design something and then force it on the states,” Chertoff says. The National Governors Association four-day-long meeting just concluded early this (Monday) afternoon.