Remember when it seemed as if redesigning the state driver’s license was one of the most controversial issues Maine had ever confronted?

Spurred by a mandate for a form of identification that could not be easily counterfeited, the federal government told states that their licenses had to be redesigned (at significant cost) and that they had to include a variety of security devices.

If the states failed to conform to those “Real ID” standards, the government threatened, their citizens could no longer use the licenses as a form of ID for air travel.

After considerable resistance, the Transportation Security Agency standards were relaxed somewhat, and some funds were provided for the transition. Maine was one of the longer holdouts, with concerns over individual privacy and the specter of a “national ID card” carrying considerable weight with lawmakers and public opinion. But now, with almost no fuss, a new driver’s license is set to be implemented next week.

It will debut on a limited basis at first with renewals in Augusta, then with all renewals statewide by June. People who want one before their current licenses expire can get them replaced for $5.

The licenses resemble the current ones, with a large photo on the left and a smaller one in a hard-to-copy format on the right.

Other security measures are incorporated, but they apparently do not contain a chip with personal data, which was one of the concerns of privacy advocates, who worried about disclosures if the licenses were lost or stolen. Some such chips are also vulnerable to being read remotely, letting their data be stolen easily.

But one feature won’t change. The photos will still be awful.


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