BOSTON (Reuters) - New Hampshire on Thursday joined a growing list of states to reject a controversial U.S. identification card that opponents say will cost billions of dollars to administer and present a risk to privacy.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate approved legislation to prohibit the Real ID program in a 24-0 vote, and Gov. John Lynch said he would sign the bill, which passed the state House of Representatives on April 6.
New Hampshire becomes the 13th state to oppose the identification card. Another 22 states are considering similar legislation or resolutions to reject it, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I applaud the Senate for overwhelmingly rejecting Real ID and for sending a strong message to the federal government," Lynch, a Democrat, said in a statement. "I look forward to signing this legislation, which will ensure the interests of the people of New Hampshire are protected."
The U.S. Congress in 2004 passed a law calling for the national digital identification system. It is intended as a post-September 11 security measure to make more secure the state-issued driver's license that are an ubiquitous form of identification in the United States.
Under the program, states would be required to verify documents presented with license applications and to link their license databases into a national electronic network. The federal law that created the program did not provide states with funds to carry it out.
"We are tremendously concerned that everyone's most sensitive, personally identifiable information is going to be in a database that is wide open, unprotected and will draw identify thieves like bees to honey," said Tim Sparapani, senior counsel at the ACLU.
But backers say the driver's license -- a primary means of identification in the United States -- is fundamentally insecure because of widespread identity theft.
Some 227 million people hold drivers' licenses or identity cards given out by states, which issue or renew about 70 million each year.
Lawmakers in neighboring Maine passed a resolution demanding repeal of the Real ID Act in January -- making the New England state the first in the nation to do so.
The program would also require states to verify that people receiving the cards are in the country legally, though they would have the ability to issue other forms of driving permits to illegal aliens.