BOZEMAN, Mont. - Montana is one of 15 states and territories that's not complying with the REAL ID Act. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the law is meant to prevent terrorists from obtaining state-issued IDs.
The law sets minimum standards for the production and issuance of state issued driver's licenses and IDs, and states federal agencies can't accept IDs that don't meet the REAL ID requirements. That's for official uses like accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial planes.
We compared a Montana driver's license to the requirements of a REAL ID. At first glance, the ID matches the criteria -- a full legal name, date of birth, gender, identification card number, a photo, address and signature.
Here's where it get fuzzy -- REAL IDs require physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes, as well as a common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.
We contacted the Department of Homeland Security to find out exactly what these features entail. They wouldn't give us an answer, so we checked with a state that does comply -- Wisconsin. We couldn't find much difference between the noncompliant ID and the compliant REAL ID besides a gold star in the upper-right corner of the license.
We called Governor Steve Bullock's office to try to find answers as to what these security features are and why Montana is noncompliant.
"As a state, we've taken great steps to improve the security of our licenses, making them even more secure," says Bullock's Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin O'Brien.
O'Brien tells us the Montana legislature voted unanimously for a measure that prohibited compliance with REAL ID. O'Brien explains part of that noncompliance has to do with a federal database where all the REAL ID information is stored from each state.
"Montanans are wary of the government collecting mass amounts of information and holding them in one place, and I would argue that's very warranted," says O'Brien.
O'Brien tells us because the state has voted for noncompliance, the Department of Homeland Security takes an issue with the state's driver's licenses.
We wanted to know what Bozeman residents think about the security of Montana Driver's licenses.
"I was looking at my license the other day and realized it had all the 3D images superimposed in the license itself and the bears, and I feel it's sufficient," says Bozeman resident Kay Ruh.
But Ruh tells us she has no objection to more security measures if they would truly keep identities safer.
April Hope believes there's room for more security features, depending on what they may be.
"We don't want people taking our IDs and being able to take things and change things about them," says Hope.
But Travis Johnston tells us he sees new security features every time he goes in for a new license.
"I think it would be pretty hard to duplicate, so I think it's pretty secure as it stands," says Johnston.
The REAL ID does not apply to voting, registering to vote or to applying for or receiving federal funds.
For the first two years of enforcement, REAL ID primarily affects people looking to access Federal facilities where identification must be presented.
Here's a breakdown of the phases of enforcement: In Phase 1, folks without a REAL ID won't be able to access restricted areas for the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters in Washington, D.C. That goes into effect April 21.
Phase 2 indicates those without a REAL ID won't be able to access restricted areas for all federal facilities and for nuclear power plants. That starts July 21.
Phase 3 enforcement means you can't go into semi-restricted federal facilities without a REAL ID starting January of next year. That includes federal court houses where the public is welcome but you have to show ID.
Phase 4 enforcement wouldn't let folks board commercial aircraft without a REAL ID or second form of identification.