Privacy advocates filed a lawsuit against Alaska’s Division of Motor Vehicles Thursday, claiming the DMV illegally created rules that make it tougher for newcomers to get a drivers license.
They say the rules are part of an effort that could one day help the federal government collect information about drivers. DMV head Duane Bannock said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit Friday.
The suit claims that a bill that would have given the DMV power to decide what people have to do to get a license died in the Legislature last year, so the Division shouldn't have been able to enact new restrictions in July.
The suit is part of a larger debate across the country about something called the Real ID Act, which requires states to collect more info about people who get drivers licenses. Supporters say the act will help fight terrorism, while critics see an assault on privacy and identity theft threat.
People who live in states that didn't comply with the Real ID act wouldn't be able to use their drivers licenses to board commercial flights.
The lawsuit was filed by Anchorage travel agency owner Sally Huntley and is being championed by Bill Scannell, a corporate and media strategist, who has taken up this kind of cause before.
A Web site's been created for the lawsuit at: http://www.myalaskaid.com.
UPDATE: Here's the story that will be in tomorrow's paper.
Privacy advocates sued the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles Thursday, claiming the DMV illegally created rules that make it tougher for newcomers to the state to get a driver’s license.
“You have to pull out your Social Security card and find a certified copy of your birth certificate and your passport and a pint of blood and whatever else they want. My wife had to go back to the DMV three times,” said Bill Scannell, a corporate and media strategist who moved to Alaska late last year and is championing the lawsuit.
Backers of the suit say the changes are part of an effort that, while pitched as a way to expose terrorists, could one day help the federal government collect dirt on drivers and lead to a national identification card.
DMV head Duane Bannock said Friday the new regulations are good and don’t violate Alaska law, but said he couldn’t comment any further because of the pending lawsuit.
The lawsuit reflects a larger debate across the country about the Real ID Act, which requires states to collect standardized info about people who get driver’s licenses. The information could be shared among states and the federal government.
Supporters say the act will help fight terrorism and identity theft — it was prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — while critics see an assault on privacy and say it actually increases identity theft risks.
Thursday, the federal Department of Homeland Security agreed to extend the deadline for states to comply with the Real ID Act by 18 months, until Dec. 31, 2009.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that under the act, driver’s licenses that aren’t acquired in compliance with the new federal standards couldn’t be used at the airport to board commercial flights, according to The Associated Press.
Scannell called that an idle threat.
The lawsuit, filed in Juneau Superior Court Thursday, names Bannock, the DMV and the state. It claims the division shouldn’t have been able to enact new driver’s license requirements last summer.
Bannock said the most significant change is that people who come to Alaska from other states now have to show additional identification, such as a birth certificate or Social Security card, in order to get an Alaska license.
Before, their out-of-state driver’s license was proof enough that they could drive and that they were who they said they were.
“We are now holding a person that has been licensed in another state to that same standard as a person that is getting their very, very first license,” he said.
The lawsuit calls for the new regulations to be repealed.
Last year, Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, proposed a bill that would have made driver’s license applicants prove that they are legally living in Alaska and in the United States. Their license would only be good as long as they were a legal citizen.
The bill passed the Senate but died in the House.
Jim Harrison, a lawyer who prepared the lawsuit against the state, said Huggins’s bill also would have given the DMV the authority to decide what kind of identification people would have to show in order to get a license. Because the bill didn’t pass, the DMV didn’t have the power to adopt new license requirements, he said.
But Bannock said the new DMV regulations were long in the works.
“If the bill that they’re complaining about died in May … do you honestly believe I could cram through a regulation between May and July?” he said.
The plaintiff in the case is Sally Huntley, owner of an Anchorage travel agency who says the state shouldn’t be making an effort to comply with the Real ID Act.
“This is ridiculous,” she said. “Nobody feels safer today than they did 10 years ago traveling, and putting a national ID deal in place is not the answer.”
Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, has been trying to require the state to enact tougher driver’s license rules for years. He’s introduced a bill similar to Huggins’s, which he says would seek to keep illegal immigrants from getting licenses.
Lynn supports the Real ID Act, and says his bill would help the state meet the act’s requirements, but he said that’s not what his proposal is really about.
“If you don’t have a legal right to walk down the highway in Alaska, why should you have a legal right to get a driver’s license?” Lynn said.
Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.