Feds give Maine extension for meeting Real ID license security

By Glenn Adams

Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine — Federal officials on Wednesday granted Maine an extension to comply with Real ID driver’s license security requirements after giving the state an extra 48 hours to refine its request.

Maine was the first state to formally reject the federal law, and was the last to be given additional time to comply.

The Homeland Security Department’s approval of an extension means that Maine drivers licenses will remain an accepted form of identification at airports and federal facilities after May 11, and that Maine residents won’t have to submit to added security checks.


When Monday’s deadline arrived for states to ask for compliance extensions, the federal agency cited several shortcomings in Maine’s effort and ordered the state to make corrections.

Among the changes the DHS is seeking is for the state to stop issuing licenses to illegal aliens, a matter that has been particularly contentious in Maine. Unlike most states, Maine requires neither proof of citizenship nor proof of residency from license applicants.

Gov. John Baldacci called the government’s demands "reasonable" and said he planned to submit legislation to address all of those shortcomings.

"I have an obligation to make sure that state government acts in the best interest of all the people of Maine," the Democratic governor said in a statement. He added that he would "use the resources at my disposal to make sure they are implemented."

Baldacci said it’s time for Maine to enhance the security of its driver’s licenses. He submitted a bill Wednesday that seeks to limit state credentials to U.S. citizens or to others who can establish their legal presence in the country.

It also seeks to enroll the state in a system to verify Homeland Security documents presented by non-citizens, and create a policy to make a non-citizen’s license expire at the same time as the alien’s legal status ends.

Some civil libertarians have criticized the Real ID program, saying it amounts to a national identification card program rather than an anti-terrorism effort.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said Baldacci blinked first in the state’s stare-down with the federal government.


"The governor is trading constitutional rights for convenience," said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. She said the federal government’s threat to keep Maine residents off planes if the state had not secured a waiver was "arbitrary and probably unconstitutional."

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