UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
All but six states have complied with federal rules on asking for more time under the Real ID Act to make their driver’s licenses more secure and restricted to U.S. citizens or legal residents.
The list of state governments following the process for deadline extensions in the past couple of weeks includes former holdouts like New Jersey and Washington, according to documents posted Friday on the Web by the Department of Homeland Security.
New Jersey filed for an extension after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff personally called Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, according to one account.
Of the six states that have so far not sought more time, only Delaware was expected to do so by the May deadline, said Brian Zimmer, president of the nonprofit lobby group Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License.
Mr. Zimmer said the governors of Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and South Carolina “appear to have turned their face against implementing the law” — setting up their states’ residents for additional document rules.
Real ID sets tough document security and information-sharing standards for state licensing authorities, and bans the issuance of licenses except to those who can prove they are U.S. citizens or in the country legally. States need not comply, but licenses that do not meet the act’s standards will not be valid for federal purposes, including boarding airplanes and entering federal buildings.
The act takes effect in May, and will apply then to states which have not filed for an extension that will give them until December 2009 to meet the standards. Air travelers and visitors to federal buildings trying to use holdout-state licenses after the deadline will be turned away, said Homeland Security spokesman Laura Keehner.
Only a handful of states filed for an extension before the publication of regulations governing the new standards last month. More than a dozen state legislatures passed legislation or resolutions opposing the act last year. In several states, lawmakers tried to forbid compliance with the act, sometimes banning spending money on it.
New Jersey never passed a law against the act, but is keeping its options open despite applying for an extension, officials there said.
While “we still have concerns” about the law and haven’t decided whether to comply with the act, state Motor Vehicle Commission Spokesman Mike Horan said that “we didn’t want to create problems for our citizens in May.”
“The extension gives us more time to review the regulations,” he said.
Mr. Zimmer said the New Jersey decision followed a phone call to Mr. Corzine earlier this month from Mr. Chertoff. “A senior Homeland Security official told me Chertoff reached out personally to a number of governors” including Mr. Corzine, he said.
Officials from Homeland Security and New Jersey could not confirm the phone call.
“All I can say is that we continue to work with states to encourage them all to implement” the new rules, Ms. Keehner said.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, said last month on her Web site that her state is also keeping its options open.
“I will not allow for confusion and chaos at our busy airports,” she said, adding that she would “continue to work with state and federal officials, our congressional delegation, as well as my fellow governors to address these concerns and to find a solution.”