What others say: Delaying the inevitable on REAL ID in Alaska

  • By Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial
  • Monday, October 16, 2017 10:58am
  • Opinion

There will be no escaping the federal REAL ID law if you want to get on to a military installation or travel by means whose access is controlled by the federal Transportation Security Administration.

But Alaskans do, once again, have a little more time to get things in order with the federal security law. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that it has given the state an additional compliance grace period through Jan. 22 of next year.

The grace period is a short-term stay while the department considers the state’s request for a full waiver until late 2020, a pivotal year by which Alaskans will have to have a form of REAL ID-compliant identification in order to travel within the country on modes of transportation monitored by the TSA.

The REAL ID Act, approved in 2005, doesn’t actually require states to do anything, by the way. It’s actually a law that applies only to federal agencies, instructing them about the circumstances in which they can accept state driver’s licenses and other forms of state-issued identification. Of course, a state’s residents would be stuck if their state doesn’t provide them with the ability to have a form of identification that comports with the instruction to federal agencies.

Alaska, though, in 2008 passed a law prohibiting the state from spending any funds to comply with the federal law. That would have eventually left residents scrambling to find some other form of identification acceptable to federal agencies. It would have been especially problematic for the occasional traveler or for someone who needs to travel on extremely short notice.

Alaska came up with a nifty, slightly awkward way to meet its residents’ needs.

The Legislature earlier this year approved, and Gov. Bill Walker signed, a bill that requires the state Division of Motor Vehicles to give residents a choice of having a driver’s license or identification card that meets the REAL ID act requirements or one that doesn’t.

Alaskans will have to make a decision that, for some individuals, will be uncomfortable. That’s because legitimate concerns exist about providing too much personal information to the government. There are also concerns about attacks on the computer systems that would house that personal information. How many stories about computer hacks of personal information have been in the news in the past year? Several.

So the choice will be whether to obtain a state driver’s license or ID card that meets federal requirements or to get a non-compliant one and either get some other form of acceptable ID or not travel anywhere you would encounter a TSA agent.

The state hopes to obtain a full waiver of the requirements through October 2020, when all Alaskans will need a compliant state-issued card or other acceptable federal identification for domestic travel in which TSA is involved. The Division of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing REAL ID cards in January 2019.

The REAL ID Act can be confusing and is, to some degree, a controversial law. But understanding how it works and what it means to you is important. You can find out about the REAL ID Act online at https://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs .

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial,

Oct. 11

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