Should proof of legal residency or citizenship be required to obtain a valid driver's license in Washington state?
The answer to the question is obvious in 48 of the 50 states -- yes!
But in Washington state that question has been on the table for years and still can't be answered. State lawmakers have not been able to agree to bring Washington's law in line with the other 48 states. That leaves Washington and New Mexico as the only two states where proof of residency is not required.
As a result, the number of immigrants seeking driver's licenses has surged in Washington and New Mexico over the past five years.
This raises legitimate national security concerns. Terrorists seeking to obtain legitimate ID would look to Washington first. When that ID is checked across the country the assumption would be the holder of that ID was in the country legally.
The upcoming election has brought this issue back in the spotlight as the candidates for governor and attorney general weighed in.
The candidates for attorney general -- Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson -- as well as GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna favor a compromise plan like the one adopted in Utah. Under that system, those who can't prove U.S. residency can obtain a permit that allows them to drive, but that document is not considered valid identification.
Jay Inslee, the Democratic candidate for governor, prefers to leave the system unchanged.
The Utah plan doesn't go far enough. Simply reducing problems isn't enough, the law needs to mandate legal residency.
Yet, given the current Legislature has resisted significant changes to driver's license requirements, the Utah compromise probably has the best chance of approval.
Utah officials have been pleased. The number of people applying for the Driving Privilege Card has steadily climbed since the law was enacted in 2005. For the past few years about 43,000 people applied for the driving card, with about 75 percent having auto insurance. That's not much lower than the insurance rate of 82 percent of Utah residents with a regular license.
With that in mind, Washington should move in the direction of Utah. It's foolish for Washington to continue to leave such a huge security breach on the books.