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OUR OPINION: Bring N.D. driver’s licenses up to speed

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203

Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

“Legislation allowing Ohio to issue ‘enhanced’ driver’s licenses and identification cards sailed through a House committee on Tuesday afternoon,” Cleveland.com reports.

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“Supporters say the enhanced licenses, which include a radio chip and barcode, would allow truckers and tourists to quickly cross into Canada and Mexico without needing a passport or other paperwork.”

So, why is this news in the Grand Forks Herald?

Because it’s happening in Ohio rather than in North Dakota.

And because unlike Ohio, North Dakota shares a land border with Canada, which means an enhanced driver’s license almost certainly would be much more popular and widely used here than it would be there.

North Dakota lawmakers, take note.

If Ohio approves enhanced driver’s licenses — an event that seems likely, given the fact that the bill passed the House transportation committee 10-1 — the state will become the sixth to do so and the first without a land border with Canada.

Ohio sits across Lake Erie from Canada, while the five states that currently offer enhanced driver’s licenses — Vermont, New York, Michigan, Washington and Minnesota — all feature busy highways that cross the international border.

For North Dakotans, the case of Minnesota is worth a look. Minnesota’s enhanced driver’s licenses date back only to February. That’s when Minnesota became “the fifth state in the country to issue the cards, which are federally-approved border crossing documents as spelled out in the Department of Homeland Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,” the Star Tribune reported at the time.

The cards are equipped with Radio Frequency Identification technology, which allow border agents at land and sea entry points to scan the cards and verify a traveler’s identity. The cards do not hold personal information, but send a signal to a secure system allowing agents to pull up one’s biographic and biometric data.”

In Minnesota, the cost for an enhanced license is only $15 in addition to the regular license fee.

This week, North Dakota did announce some changes to its driver’s license. Specifically, the state “is giving its driver’s license a new look and beefing up security features to prevent counterfeiting,” Forum News Service reported.

Alas, the new look and beefed-up security don’t seem to include passport-substitution capability, as an enhanced driver’s license would provide.

The state’s executive and legislative branches should change that.

For decades, Americans needed to show only their driver’s license to cross into Canada. It was a remarkable symbol of friendship and trust. Now, technology gives Americans the chance to cross the border with both the security benefits of passports and the ease and convenience of driver’s licenses.

Minnesota already has taken advantage of that technology. Ohio may be about to, as well.

North Dakota should do the same.

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