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Illinois senator hopeful for digital driver’s license proposal

Illinois lawmakers could soon consider a proposal to allow drivers to use digital driver's...
Illinois lawmakers could soon consider a proposal to allow drivers to use digital driver's licenses.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 5:01 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois could soon join a number of states giving people the option to use a digital driver’s license. Sponsors say it’s time to adjust to the 21st century.

Many people have been in situations when you’re about to head out the door and realize you forgot your wallet. Sen. John Connor (D-Lockport) says you’re less likely to forget your phone.

He argues Illinoisans should have the option to prove their identity to an officer if they don’t have their physical driver’s license. Connor says state lawmakers are not trying to eliminate regular driver’s licenses. His proposal would only be a convenient alternative for people who may prefer it on their smartphones.

As a former prosecutor, Connor saw many people appear in traffic court simply because they didn’t have a license when they were pulled over. He explained it’s a waste of time and money for people to appear in court on such a minor issue.

“If they have their phone with them, then that situation would not come up anymore,” Connor said. “They would have the option of showing the officer, using the app, their digital driver’s license and verifying their identity that way.”

Connor plans to work with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to create digital protocols before his plan moves forward. His bill would require people to download an app to have the driver’s license on their phone.

Other states that already have digital licenses require a fingerprint or facial scan to have security for the ID’s personal information.

Smartphones already allow you to have credit cards, vaccine cards, and tickets saved in a virtual wallet. Most would agree that a digital license makes sense as well.

Connor stressed this could be helpful for younger drivers who already use many apps on their phones.

“In a situation where an officer may think someone has an active warrant out for their arrest, if they have their phone with them and they can prove that they are not the individual that is sought in the warrant, how much of a savings are we going to accomplish,” Connor asked.

Some states have worked with Google and Apple to create applications allowing people to safely upload their driver’s license information and keep it safe from theft.

Connor said he understands the proposal may not move by the end of the shortened session this spring. Still, he argues it’s important that lawmakers and the Secretary of State’s office move the idea forward so it can be a possibility soon.

Democrats introduced a plan to do this last year, but that legislation didn’t move out of the House transportation committee. Connor talked with his colleague, Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago), to understand why House Bill 259 stalled in 2021.

Understandably, creating a brand new application could take a significant amount of time. Buckner explained that he was moving things along with the Secretary of State’s office. Either proposal could move the state towards an exciting opportunity for drivers.

“Instead of having Illinois be at the end of the pack or last to do it, I kind of want us to move ahead,” Connor said. “There’s about six or seven states who have made this advance already. I want to make sure that in the near future we can offer this for Illinois residents as well.”

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