I imagine New York Governor Eliot Spitzer wishes he never stepped in the driver’s license issue. His original decision to use the New York driver’s license as a driver’s license rather than an immigration enforcement tool was correct. But it was met with caterwauls of derision by the virulent anti-immigrant crowd. He backed down and committed his state to the federal REAL ID Act, a national ID scheme that is basically in collapse.
In an interview on CNN this morning, I think he revealed how he intends to split the difference. Describing the two kinds of licenses he intends to have in the state beyond the passport card (for “Buffalo and along the Canadian border”), he said:
A Real ID license that people will get if they want to have perhaps an easier time at an airport. Another one if you already have a passport. You will not need to pay the extra fees, et cetera. So, two separate licenses. Both valid, both legitimate.
My read of that is that he will not encourage New Yorkers to get REAL ID-compliant licenses. Those will cost more and be more difficult to get, so perhaps the majority of New Yorkers won’t have them. They will use passports for those rare “U.S. government purposes.”
Though he blew it when he caved to the anti-immigrant groups, Governor Spitzer is right to suggest that New Yorkers wanting a REAL ID-compliant license should pay the full cost of getting one.
Especially when a significant number of New Yorkers decline to go the REAL ID route, the cost per card will be enormous and, ultimately, I doubt that New York will actually implement REAL ID. When the governor and state legislature discover the cost of what he’s committed them to, they’ll get together on declining to participate in the national ID system.
Update: Here’s an article roughly confirming my thesis about Spitzer’s strategy.