In Montana, there is considerable movement to interpose against the implementation of the REAL ID Act. There are commendable reasons for the state to object to the federal mandate, according to the state’s Governor.

Governor Steve Bullock reasserted that the state would not comply with the Act in a letter to the United States Department of Homeland Security. Bullock’s letter explicitly notes that Montana’s objections are premised upon understanding of the state’s authority and concern over the collection of personal and private information of its citizens.

Bullock wrote:

“In addition to the excessive cost of creating a national database, Montanans are appropriately concerned with the extensive collection of their personal and private information by the government.”

Bullock used direct language to explain how Montana’s ability to maintain its own identification cards has been sufficient, “independent of federal mandate.” He illustrated how Montana has been successful in maintaining a DMV database, ensuring the security of identifiable information, and integrating security features into its own cards. His letter hinges on the notion that Montana is maintaining security standards for its own identification cards, regardless of federal standards.

Montana’s stance is important because the state unanimously passed HB287 in 2007, a bill that nullifies the implementation of REAL ID in the state. Montana joined a group of 12 other states in making such an enactment. The state’s reasoning was made clear in the bill:

“WHEREAS, the mandate to the states, through federal legislation that provides no funding for its requirements, to issue what is, in effect, a national identification card appears to be an attempt to “commandeer” the political machinery of the states and require them to be agents of the federal government, in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Certainly, this type of interposition is the type that James Madison wrote would be necessary for “arresting the progress of evil.” Any type of overreach into the personal lives of citizens by the federal government has been considered historically objectionable since the time of the Writs of Assistance of the 1760s. The passage of a bill that would impose such standards is something which the Tenth Amendment explicitly prohibits. Certainly, accepting the federal government into this realm would innately provide such authorities with information on a whole host of private information. If citizens allow such measures to be accepted, the result is an inevitable shift of power to be consolidated in the federal government. Montana should be applauded for its efforts impede these measures.

Dave Benner

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