ATLANTA — Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has proposed that state-issued identification cards, issued through the Department of Driver Services, be made available free for all eligible state residents.
Similar in form to Georgia Driver's Licenses, the state ID cards are compliant with the federal Department of Homeland Security's REAL ID standards and may be used for voter identification and other purposes - including boarding commercial aircraft.
The state already offers a free voter photo identification card, but that document can only be used specifically for voting.
At present, the regular state ID card costs $32, and can be obtained at state DDS offices.
The announcement comes as Republican state lawmakers try to usher in new, more restrictive voting laws in the wake of bruising GOP losses in both the presidential and US senate races.
Ralston offered the free IDs solution as a commitment to "eliminating barriers to voting for all legally eligible Georgians,” Ralston said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We have heard from Georgians who are concerned about fees associated with obtaining a voter identification," he added. "While Georgia already offers a free voter ID, this State ID card is more useful and will make it easier for Georgians to not only vote, but use the ID to open a checking account or show identification to a TSA agent at an airport."
The federal REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendations that the federal government "set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses."
In addition to those minimum standards, the REAL ID Act also prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and ID cards from states that don't meet those standards, including accessing federal facilities, boarding aircraft, and entering nuclear power plants.
"Ultimately, we want to make getting a government-issued photo ID as easy as possible, and removing this fee is one more way to demonstrate our commitment that everyone has the tools necessary to vote in Georgia," Ralston said.
Under the federal REAL ID Act, all state-issued ID cards and licenses across the nation must meet REAL ID standards by Oct. 1, 2021.
To obtain a state-issued ID card, Georgia residents must present documents proving their identity, home address, full social security number, and US citizenship or proof of lawful status in the United States. Note: All supporting documents must be in English.
Applicants under the age of 18 must bring a parent/guardian or responsible adult (with paperwork showing their relationship to the minor).