Daines asks Trump for delay on Real ID in Montana

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines has asked President Donald Trump to delay requirements of the Real ID Act of 2005 for one year for Montanans, saying the state was having difficulty meeting the October deadline for compliance.

“While the state of Montana continues working to implement Real ID in a timely fashion, large numbers of Montanans will not have Real ID compliant identification by the October 2020 deadline,” the Montana Republican wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to the president.

“I ask that you grant an emergency waiver for the state of Montana for one year, as they are working in good faith to comply with the law. I look forward to continuing to work with you to protect Montanans’ privacy and security.”

He asks for an extension of phases 3 and 4, which allows access to federal facilities and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Anastasia Burton, spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Justice, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division, said the department is aware of Daines’ request.

“This proposed extension would give Montanans one more year to comply with Real ID requirements and benefit those whose licenses would come up for renewal between October 2020 and October 2021,” she said Monday in an email.

The Real ID Act sets minimum security standards for issuing licenses and prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting those standards. It was passed in 2005 at recommendation of the 9/11 Commission in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Montana was one of 15 states that initially defied the law.

Burton said the Motor Vehicle Division began implementation of Real ID a little over one year ago. Between January 2019 and January 2020, it issued 50,636 Real ID-compliant driver licenses and state-issued identification cards.

A Real ID looks like a regular driver license or identification, with a gold star added to the upper right corner to indicate it is Real ID compliant. The gold star allows security officials to determine a person’s identity has been verified and allows for quicker security screenings, officials said.

The state said earlier one common misconception is that everyone is required by law to get a Real ID.

“Obtaining a Real ID is a choice. You don’t need it to vote or drive if you already have a driver’s license,” said Sarah Garcia, Montana Vehicle Division administrator. “If you don’t travel by air or visit secure federal facilities like courthouses or military bases, you may not need a Real ID. Each person should make the decision for themselves based upon their individual needs.”

Daines says in the letter to the president that not having access to federal government facilities or boarding an airplane would have a “significant impact on business and travel in my state.”

“For example, a vendor in Great Falls will no longer be able to access Malmstrom Air Force Base to drop off their deliveries without additional identification,” he wrote. “Further, some veterans seeking care could face difficulties in entering a base to see their doctor.”

More than 90% of Montana IDs issued are not yet compliant, Daines said, referencing information from the Montana Department of Justice.

The state is making progress in complying, and a waiver would be “only a temporary pause while Montana makes an earnest effort to implement Real ID,” Daines said.

On April 22, 2019, the Montana Department of Justice was told by the federal Department of Homeland Security that Montana was now in full compliance with the Real ID Act.

This allowed federal agencies and the Transportation Security Administration to accept all valid Montana driver licenses and ID cards to board domestic commercial flights and access secure federal facilities until Oct. 1, 2020. 

Montana’s Legislature passed a law in 2007 against the act, in part because lawmakers chafed at storing images of documents that people used to prove of their identity, such as birth certificates. There was bipartisan criticism of the law as an example of federal overreach and lawmakers warned this would lead to the creation of an internal surveillance system harming civil liberties.