Monday was to have marked the start of the state’s new TRU-ID program to tighten motor vehicle license requirements.
But due to a court challenge the American Civil Liberties Union filed late Friday, the changes now have been temporarily postponed, according to Michael Horan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
“We’re extremely disappointed that they did this 11th-hour end run,” Horan said of the ACLU, adding that the organization had months to file an objection. “We thought it was disingenuous.”
On Friday, the ACLU successfully filed an injunction temporarily blocking the institution of the program, according to Horan. As a result, instead of instituting their new program on Monday, lawyers for the state Motor Vehicle Commission will head to the Chancery Division of Superior Court in Mercer County to litigate the case, he said.
Horan declined to detail the ACLU’s objections to the program. The ACLU plans to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Monday in Newark detailing its opposition to the program. The organization did not comment on the court action Sunday.
The new scheme was to have replaced the current 6 Point ID verification program, approved by the state Motor Vehicle Commission in 2003, which required motorists to present multiple forms of identification before receiving a driver’s license.
The biggest change: A previously valid state drivers license would no longer be used to prove one’s identity.
Horan said the changes will bring the state’s driver’s license in line with new federal requirements and allow motorists to use the license as identification for air travel.
Under the proposed changes, drivers would need to present a passport, birth certificate, Green Card, foreign passport or other compliant documents with the federal REAL ID program. Drivers also would need to bring a document with one’s Social Security number, along with two proofs of residency, including MVC renewal form, recent utility, banking statements, mail from a government agency, or a property tax bill or rental lease.
A number of secondary proofs of identity, such as military IDs, federal pilot’s licenses or most other government-issued photo IDs would no longer be accepted.
The licenses also would double in price, from $24 to $48, but would be valid for eight years, twice as long as now.
On Friday, several people at the MVC office in Egg Harbor Township’s Shore Mall said the proposed changes did not trouble them.
“I think it’s great,” said Patrick Tobin, 37, of Margate. “They should make you show one to vote.” He waited in the mall, near the entrance to the busy center, for his girlfriend to finish registering her vehicle. A poster advertising the TRU-ID changes hung in the office window.
Michele Smith, 39, of Margate, joined him, and Tobin told her he supported the restrictions. “I think it’s good. Put that down,” she said to a reporter. “I could care less.”
Moments later Monet Gaynor, 21, met her mother as her mother left with a renewed license. The two Egg Harbor Township residents glanced at the poster and both said the requirements did not seem excessive.
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Gaynor said.
Because of the expected crush at motor vehicle agencies by the 6 million New Jersey drivers, officials were planning to allow standard driver’s license holders born before Dec. 1, 1964, to renew by mail starting July 1. By Dec. 1, 2017, however, they would have to get in line with everyone else.
Horan said delaying the start of TRU-ID puts in jeopardy plans for the mail-in program.
The licenses are the state’s response to the 2005 federal REAL ID Act. That law was itself a reaction to a central finding by the 9/11 Commission that while drivers’ licenses are near-universal IDs, the different states’ requirements were inconsistent and a target for abuse.
By December 2014, everyone born after Dec. 1, 1964, will need one of these enhanced IDs to access federal facilities such as a courthouse, enter a nuclear power plant or board a flight. Older motorists are grandfathered until 2017.
To be able to issue REAL ID-compliant licenses, New Jersey has spent about $8.8 million upgrading its computers, and installing facial recognition and other technologies. There have been 150 separate grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security, totaling $175 million.
These new licenses will be marked with a gold star, but are otherwise identical to current licenses. In March, Raymond P. Martinez, MVC chief administrator, told reporters “Come 2017, if it doesn’t have a ‘star,’ it might as well have been bought at a five-and-dime store.”
For now, any new New Jersey licenses issued Monday won’t carry the gold star, and as a result aren’t fully compliant with the REAL ID program, Horan said.
The REAL ID Act has proved controversial with more than 40 states and territories passing laws or resolutions in opposition. So far, nine other states have passed REAL-ID compliant licenses, the closest being Delaware.
Staff Writer Hoa Nguyen contributed to this report.
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