COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Under a new law, Ohioans can soon apply for an enhanced driver’s license expected to make it easier to show proof of citizenship when crossing the U.S. border by land or sea ports.
Ohio’s transportation budget, which takes effect June 30, allows state officials to seek approval from the department to issue the enhanced licenses. Ohio would become the sixth state to issue them. They’re already in Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington.
The licenses contain a radio frequency identification chip, or RFID, that can signal a border inspection computer to pull up a citizen’s identifying information, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Ohioans would be able to use them when coming into the country from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
Enhancing a driver’s license, CDL or ID card would cost an extra $25 on top of what Ohioans would already pay for the card.
The provision allows the state’s Registrar of Motor Vehicles to adopt rules on the types of proof of identity and citizenship that could be accepted from applicants, as well as “reasonable” security measures to guard against counterfeiting and leaks of personal information.
According to an analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, applicants would be expected to:
- Provide proof of their identity and citizenship
- Submit a biometric identifier — like a fingerprint — to be determined later
- Sign a declaration acknowledging that the IDs use biometric match and RFID features
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles is now awaiting guidance from DHS in implementing the enhanced IDs, so the timeline is “dependent on the federal government,” an Ohio Department of Public Safety spokesperson told FOX 8 News in an email. Details about costs, expiration dates and extra steps needed to get one are still unclear.
In the past, Ohio lawmakers have twice rejected the concept of an enhanced driver’s license, said James Moyer, a data protection advocate from Medina County, who testified in March before the Senate Transportation Committee. The concept last came up in 2017, when a proposal passed the House with strong support but never got a Senate committee hearing.
Moyer voiced concerns that the RFID chips used in the enhanced licenses are unencrypted and that their security is “technologically defunct.” He also said he thinks the bill gives too much rulemaking authority on the use of the IDs to the state’s public safety department.
“This idea reappears regularly for reasons that are unrelated to the idea of making it easer for Ohioans to cross the Canada/Mexico land borders,” he testified. “There is no great call for this on the part of Ohioans. It has been sold in the past as an optional program which affect[s] only those who accept it. Today, in regards to this bill, no attempt is being made to sell the EDL to Ohioans. It is being hidden from the people of this state with no publicity at all.”
DHS notes that personally identifiable information is not stored on the card or transmitted electronically. The card only contains a unique identification number that can be referenced by a secure DHS database.
The licenses also come with a shielded sleeve that prevents others from reading them.