Alaska, others get Real ID Act extension

State-issued photo IDs will suffice for airport security checkpoints in 2013 (Photo: Jason Reed, Reuters).
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Brooks Hays

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has granted extensions to Alaska, New Mexico and 35 other states, giving them more time to fall in line with the requirements of the Real ID Act. For now, drivers’ licenses and state-issued IDs will get residents through airport security and allow them access to federal buildings in 2013 — no passports necessary.

The Real ID Act, signed into law in 2005, is designed to beef up national security by standardizing the process of obtaining a photo ID in all 50 states. The law requires states to use digital photographs and machine-readable technology such as magnetic strips or bar codes in the cards, and to verify birth certificates when issuing licenses.

As GIMBY's News Focus reported last year, over half of all state legislatures remain formally opposed to the laws, claiming the federal government is overstepping its authority. Alaska is one of several states with laws strictly forbidding the use of state funds to implement Real ID, as the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

Until recently, DHS had remained quiet on Real ID Act enforcement. That silence allowed for lingering confusion over what might happen on January 15 — the deadline for Real ID compliance — should more than half the IDs issued by states become suddenly unusable for air travel.

But last month, DHS put those concerns to rest, announcing that all states not in compliance with Real ID requirements would be granted a deferment. The announcement confirmed that only 13 states – Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – are officially square with the federal mandate.

Some have wondered, given the opposition to the law and DHS's apparent reluctance to enforce it, whether the security agency had abandoned the Real ID Act altogether.

But DHS's latest statement insists that the "goal is to implement the REAL ID Act, as required by law, in a measured, fair, and responsible way." The agency plans to publish a new timeline for compliance with the law by fall 2013.