U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, speaks at the Auburn Fire Department’s 9/11 service Sept. 11, 2016.

AUGUSTA — U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is pressuring Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature to quickly change state law to avoid what he calls a “dire situation” regarding the state’s noncompliance with federal Real ID rules.

In a Friday letter, Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, urged the repeal of a 2007 law passed by the Legislature and signed by then-Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, which prohibited Maine from participating in the national program that was implemented in 2005 as a homeland security measure to make it harder for terrorists to procure U.S. identification cards.

Maine is one of five states that remain out of compliance, and Poliquin wrote that the state is “in a dire situation.”

“Maine-issued driver’s licenses are increasingly no longer able acceptable forms of identification to access federal buildings and facilities,” he wrote. “My office has received news that Maine businesses are suffering because their employees cannot access federal job sites. … Our veterans cannot access health care facilities located on military bases.”

Aside from privacy concerns, implementing Real ID in Maine comes with a price tag of approximately $1 million. Maine has taken several steps to comply with Real ID, such as increasing residency documentation requirements in the driver’s license application process. But it has not implemented more controversial requirements, such as using facial recognition software at Bureau of Motor Vehicles sites and fingerprinting of BMV employee.


Maine also has not started using Department of Homeland Security-approved markings on ID cards.

Because of license renewal deadlines and other factors, it would take Maine about six years to switch all license holders over to the new cards.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, a former Maine secretary of state, has sponsored a bill this year, LD 306, that would require Maine to comply with federal Real ID guidelines. The bill has been referred to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, where it is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday.

“This is one of those things we really don’t have much of a choice on,” Diamond told the Bangor Daily News in January. He was a co-sponsor of the 2007 legislation but says he has changed his mind because “early concerns, although legitimate, have proven to be unwarranted.”

Those concerns mainly revolved around privacy. Real ID was created in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has called it “Orwellian” and said compliance would be “a reversal of 10 years of state policy regarding your personal freedoms and privacy.”

On Friday, Dunlap spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski said he is “maintaining the position that it does go above and beyond that he thinks is acceptable as far as the public privacy concerns,” but his office will “follow Maine law in implementing” any change.


Poliquin said the Department of Homeland Security has told him that if Maine offers a written commitment to repealing the 2007 law and implementing other measures by June 6 of this year, some of the consequences of being out of compliance would be delayed. Following a repeal, his letter says Maine will need to outline steps for compliance to get an extension until Oct. 10, 2017.

The problems with Maine’s driver’s licenses will become worse on Jan. 22, 2018, when they will no longer be accepted by airlines for boarding domestic flights, though there are alternatives that can be used in place of a state driver’s license, such as a U.S. passport or passport card.

In October 2016, the Department of Homeland Security denied an extension for Maine to comply with Real ID because it had “not provided adequate justification for continued non-compliance.”

The issue is also under consideration in Congress. In late January, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st Congressional District, co-sponsored a bill to make it easier for Maine and other states to comply with the Real ID Act by eliminating provisions that require states to retain digital scans of identification documents for up to 10 years. The impetus behind the bill is a concern about identity thieves accessing the documents.

BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

Comments are not available on this story.