Within the next two years, Mainers may need passports to access federal locations or board even domestic flights because of the state's failure to comply with a federal law.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified five states this week that requests for extensions to comply with the federal Real ID Act have been denied. The law passed in 2005 and imposes tighter regulations for what's acceptable as proof of legal U.S. residency in order for state driver's licenses to be valid for federal purposes. The states that are involved include Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and South Carolina.

What this means for Mainers is that it may take a passport to be able to access federal properties, like military bases, nuclear power plants, and other federal facilities. And in two years, Mainers would need a passport to board even domestic flights. Travelers will need to use alternate forms of identification specified on a TSA information page.

Maine passed a law in 2007 refusing to comply with the Real ID program and legislators, since then, have been rejecting the legislation needed to put it into practice. Under the program, digital pictures on state licenses and ID cards would have to be compatible with face recognition software, and with a state-maintained database that contains residents' personal information.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says Real ID compatible licenses are not required to vote in public elections. While a state-issued ID is required at the polls, your current Maine license will be accepted. Other areas not needing a REAL ID-compatible license include:

  • Entering any federal facility that doesn't require proof of ID
  • Being licensed to drive
  • Applying for or receiving federal benefits
  • Accessing health or life-preserving services, law enforcement, or access to constitutionally-protected activities like court proceedings

For more information, log onto the Department of Homeland Security's website.