Could Illinois adopt electronic driver’s licenses?

By Amy Korte
Illinois Policy

Illinois motorists may one day carry their driver’s licenses on their smartphones. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office announced that the secretary of state is seeking bids to investigate the feasibility of electronic driver’s licenses, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-West Dundee, chairs a committee of Illinois lawmakers studying this issue; McConnaughay has noted that people already use their smartphones as wallets and that this technology warrants consideration.

If implemented, this technology would put the information now carried on plastic licenses on smartphones, accessed through secure apps.

Other states have already begun investigating putting driver’s licenses on smartphones.Delaware’s Legislature in January 2015 directed the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles to study the issue. Of course, not everyone has a smartphone, and Delaware officials have said the state would still issue licenses on plastic cards even if they go ahead with implementing electronic licenses.

State employees in Iowa began testing a driver’s license app through a pilot program in August.

Some have raised civil liberties and information-security concerns regarding drivers’ handing over their smartphones with personal and financial information to police, though a driver should not have to relinquish his or her device for an officer to scan the license.

Before moving forward with any plans or bids, Illinois officials must insist on detailed information about how license scanning would work – and they must be transparent about that information with the public.

It’s likely that allowing electronic licenses would be a long-term cost-saving measure for the state, as well as a convenience for many drivers.

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