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Maine rejects compliance with national ID card law

WASHINGTON -- Maine became the first state in the nation yesterday to officially decline to comply with the Real ID Act of 2005, the federal law that critics say lays the foundation for the creation of a national identity card.

Both houses of the state Legislature -- unanimously in the Senate, 137 to 4 in the House -- approved a resolution rejecting compliance with the act, which requires states to replace their current drivers' licenses by May 2008 with forgery-proof cards embedded with private information. The legislatures urged its repeal .

To obtain the card, which is meant to ensure that the holder is in the country legally, an individual would be required to present a Social Security card, birth certificate, proof of residency, and a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint. The card would employ "common machine-readable technology" that could be scanned to verify a person's identity.

All this information, digitally stored, would become part of a nationwide database, accessible by federal, state, and local government employees.

Privacy advocates argue that putting every driver's personal information in that database would facilitate identity theft. Shenna L. Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, called it "a real ID nightmare."

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman, Jarrod Agen, did not comment directly on the Maine Legislature's action, saying only that the purpose of the act is to protect citizens, not make them more vulnerable.