[JURIST] Maine Gov. John Baldacci [official website] signed a bill into law late Thursday that would require an applicant to show proof of US residency before being issued a state driver's license or ID card [JURIST news archive]. Forty-three other states already require proof of legal US residency to get a driver's license. The new law brings Maine closer to compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005 [PDF text; JURIST news archive].
Initially drafted after the Sept.11, 2001 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, the REAL ID Act attempts to make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians [FindLaw commentary], it finally passed in 2005 [JURIST report] as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill. State lawmakers had previously expressed concern [JURIST report] about possible problems expected to accompany the implementation of the REAL ID Act, fearing that they would not be able to comply with the law's requirements before the May 2008 deadline. In March, Homeland Security responded to these concerns by extending the deadline for compliance by 18 months [JURIST report]. In January, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule [text; DHS backgrounder] establishing the new minimum standards [press release; JURIST report] for state-issued identification cards. AP has more.