‘Not Everyone’s Life Is Just Like Yours’: Trying To Get A Voter ID

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

(By Joanne Boyer, cross-posted at Wisdom Voices)

One of the constant replies I receive when talking to people about the so-called Voter ID laws now running rampant in our country is, “I just don’t believe people can’t get ID.”  My instant response usually goes, “No, it is not as easy as you think and not all people’s lives are just like yours.”

So often today we get caught in our insular bubbles that keep us from interacting with people whose lives are different from ours.  I mean real interaction as in “walk a mile in my shoes.”

So I decided to check in with my youngest daughter, who spent her first year after college graduation with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps-Northwest working in a day drop-in shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Tacoma, Washington.  Here’s her account of just how hard it is for people to get ID.


In Tacoma, we budgeted for ten checks per month to help people pay to get IDs on a first come, first serve basis. On the first day of every month, people would be lined up outside waiting for us to open the doors, and then once inside lined up waiting at our office window, where usually the first ten people in line were there to get an ID check. We would almost never have any checks left on the second day of the month. We also (when the budget permitted)gave out a bus ticket with each check, so that people would have a way to get to the appropriate office where they needed to go for their ID. People would often call us in the middle of the month after hearing that we helped people get IDs, and we would explain that we give out ten checks per month, and if you wanted a chance at getting one you needed to be here at exactly the time we open on the first day of the month.

Here’s why it’s not realistic to say, “I don’t believe people would have a hard time getting an ID.” I’ll use myself as a hypothetical situation. I’m sitting here (since you asked about this) and thought, what would I do if I needed to get an ID? (Which I actually do, still, since I don’t have state ID after moving to Illinois)

The first thing I did was look up on the Internet where the closest DMV to me is. (We can bracket the fact that I am already sitting at a computer with easy Internet access. In Tacoma, you needed a library card to use the computers at the public library. To get my library card in Illinois, I had to present utility bills as proof of address, since I didn’t have state-issued ID.  So, I possibly need an ID, and an address, to access a computer to look up on the Internet how to get an ID.)

I found out that there really aren’t any DMV offices close to where I live – the closest one is downtown, which is still almost 3 miles away from where I live. Now, I am going to be fine because I happen to work close to where the office is and I have the luxury of being able to step out of the office over the lunch hour and head over there. But for those “not just like” me, they would first need to be able to get the 3 miles to the office. I have a transportation card paid for by my work place (and a bike, and access to people with cars, and enough money to pay for a cab). Others would need to come up with $4.50 in cash to be able to take public transportation to and from the office (or else pay even more for a cab, or have a friend with a car, or own a bike, or, walk. It takes about an hour to walk from where I live to downtown).

But, when I was looking up the nearest location of the DMV, I was also checking to see when it was open. And the hours of the nearest location to me are: 8 am – 5 pm Monday – Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday. Do you work a full-time job from 8 am – 5 pm? (Or multiple part time jobs? Or a night shift job, so that you’d rather be sleeping from 8-5?) One that might not allow you to travel to the closest office (which could be miles away) over a lunch break? (This is assuming that you have one, and your job isn’t in jeopardy if you are five minutes late to get back.) What exactly are you going to do about this? What if you have kids that you need to get home to, pick up from school, drop off at school, etc.?

I’m also living in a major city of almost 3 million people. This means there are multiple office locations where I could go to, a solid public transportation system, etc. Poverty and homelessness are realities in the suburbs and in rural areas as well, which opens up all sorts of other issues in terms of access, transportation, etc. when you aren’t talking about living in a big city. Minnesota voter ID laws would affect the whole state, not just Minneapolis and St. Paul and Rochester and Duluth.

Let’s also not forget that usually to get an ID, you need some other form of ID. A common situation is as follows: When someone tries to get an ID card, they will be asked to supply secondary proof of identity like a birth certificate. Don’t have your birth certificate? Off you get sent to go get it. What if you only had enough money for one bus ride? How are you going to get to this other office to track down your birth certificate? When are you going to do it, if you’re still working during regular business hours? If you do finally make it to the office where you can get your birth certificate, you can bet you’ll be asked to show some identification, which is the whole reason why you are there in the first place.

(I remember in Tacoma a man came in who had just lost everything in a fire and was in this exact situation – all of his forms of ID had burned in the fire and he couldn’t get one without the other.) When I do go get my Illinois ID I’m going to need to bring with me pretty much everything short of the name of my first born child: I’ll need my passport, social security card, copy of my lease or some utility bills, pay stub, bank statement, etc. What if you don’t have a job? Or a bank account?What if you aren’t paying utility bills because you don’t have your own place to live?

And then you still have pay for the ID. In Tacoma, this could cost anywhere from $15 to $50, depending on what was needed.

The moral of this story is yes: Not everyone is like you. Not everyone has internet access, a car, a bus pass, disposal income for public transportation, flexible job hours, friends or family members to ask for help, an address, or a bank account. But don’t all these people still have the right to vote?



Sunday, August 19th, 2012

(By Fay Paxton, cross-posted at The Pragmatic Pundit)

I have never bought into the whole voter ID scam because I know history and bullshit.  Doesn’t it strike anyone as hypocritical that the small government advocates, who hate mandates have mandated that everyone has to have a government ID?  In light of the fact that voter fraud is virtually non-existent, there’s no reason to believe that the same identification process that has always worked will continue to serve us well.  Still, there’s nothing like personal experience to give validity to one’s argument.

Let me give you my personal encounter with the voter identification process:

Some months ago, I moved to Kansas.  As is required, I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to exchange my driver’s license for a Kansas license, to make record of my new address and to register to vote.  In order to make certain I would cover every possibility, I simply grabbed what I call “my identity packet” which contains the following:

My birth certificate
My social security card and my last social security statement that projects my benefits
A passport
Current 1099’s
My current tax return
My insurance policy
My Dependent Care Packet (a notarized, exhaustive packet issued by the military to anyone who will be responsible for the care of military children in the event of disability or death of a soldier)

I have credit cards and debit cards
A current driver’s license and automobile registration
A picture ID issued by the United States Armed Forces

To verify my new address I took mail I had received, since my relocation from:

The utility company
The Telephone company
My rental lease
A registered letter from the Internal Revenue Service


Acceptable Documents

Most of the items are simply not on the list of acceptable documents and clearly the people charged with verifying identity have no authority to use common sense.  My passport was issued in my hyphenated married name so I needed an original copy of my divorce decree to verify that my name has changed and of course, a copy of my marriage license to prove that I was married in the first place.

Okay, I get that the tax items were not on the list of acceptable items but a Dependent Care Package, a legal affidavit issued by the United States Army? They investigate and verify every aspect of one’s life; employment, income, family relations, assets, etc.  But then the military ID which allows you to prowl, unescorted around a military base, does not contain an expiration date.  Why is an expiration date even necessary?  If my driver’s license expires tomorrow, do I cease being the person on the picture?  Is the house I’ve resided in for twenty years no longer my address? That’s like saying if you don’t know your birthday, you were never born.  And isn’t the requirement to have a picture ID a mandate?

The items I used to verify my new address were not accepted because, as the clerk explained, “I have you listed at an address in Chicago and one in Maryland.”  Hmmm.  She accepted that the person with multiple addresses was me but the person standing before her was not.

I explained that I own property in both places, but that clearly I wasn’t presently residing in either place.  The lease and utility bill verifying my new address were meaningless.  As was the registered letter from the IRS.  The postman had required my identification and signature.  But IRS was not on the list!

Alas, I exist, afterall

During a second visit, exasperated, I rifled through my documents looking for something acceptable, when the clerk suddenly said, “Oh, I can accept this.”  She picked up an unopened letter from my bank and though it was clearly postmarked, SHE OPENED IT!  “I have to verify that there has been activity in the last three months.”  I was no longer exasperated, I was pissed!

The information for my new driver’s license printed out, along with my voter’s registration.  I was photographed  for my new driver’s license.  I took a seat and waited for my name to be called.

I watched as an elderly woman, barely able to walk grappled with the fact that she still carried her husband’s name despite the fact he had been dead for decades.  She waved the death certificate and marriage license.

“He was killed in the war….I’ve lived in the same house for over fifty years….you know me.”  She was at the brink of tears.

“I understand”
, the clerk explained. “Don’t blame me, blame all these bad illegals who are taking advantage of us all and have made it bad for everybody.” 

“Well, don’t punish me…I am an American citizen….my husband and son both fought and died in wars for this country and I’m not going to be able to vote?”

The clerk handed her a tissue.  “What you will have to do is change your name back to your own name.”  She gave her the address and necessary information.  “After you have officially changed your name, bring in the official papers and I will be able to issue you a state ID.”

Just so you know, she was white.  I couldn’t help but think of my own mother, who never had a driver’s license…never owned a car…she never learned to drive.  Not because she was poor, she was anything but that, it just isn’t a necessity or desire in everyone’s life to own a car.


I was thoroughly disgusted by the time I left.  A couple of months later, it occurred to me that I had not received a voter’s registration card, nor any communication from the election board.  I retrieved the form and for the first time, inspected the registration.  It had no first name printed on it; not even an initial.  How did that happen when it printed out at the same time as the driver’s license which contained my first name and middle initial?

At the County Clerk’s office, a worker complained that “she was tired of correcting their mistakes”.  But was it a mistake?  How many people will even notice the error before election day?  They think they’re registered, but they will not be able to vote.

On the fourth of July, I had a cookout for 22 soldiers.  Why did 14 of them complain that they had not be able to vote in the last election?  Every one of these men had been deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan more than once to risk their lives so the enemy can vote, while they were denied that right in their own country.

Voters have always had to identify themselves, there simply was a different standard of identification.  And the statistics prove, it was a system of identification that worked…FOR A HUNDRED YEARS!  Those who argue that photo identification is required to buy a beer or fly, fail to differentiate between a privilege and a Constitutional right.

I often read comments that question how individuals who receive government benefits can do so without identification, but the argument simply confirms that a photo ID is not necessary to prove who you are. Just as the clerk was able to tell me all my addresses, they have a hundred databases to pull from and crosscheck.  In fact, the government knows where you are as you read this article.   Shame on you people who uphold an activity that infringes on peoples Constitutional rights.  Voting isn’t a Democratic or Republican right.  It’s an American right!

Note:  So many people have emailed to ask, I thought I’d let everyone know, I still have not received my voter registration card.

Voting Guide for the Wisconsin Recall Election

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Tuesday, June 5 is the day that Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to restore the state’s tradition of honest, progressive government by electing Tom Barrett as Governor and recalling Scott Walker.  Walker thinks you won’t vote – it is up to you to prove him wrong.  Here are some tips for election day:

* Know Where to Vote – Find your polling place by clicking here.  The polls are open from 7am to 8pm.

* Know Your Rights – the voting rules for the recall election are described here. Three key points are:

- you do NOT need a photo ID to vote

- you can register to vote at the polls on election day, so long as you bring a document with your name and voting address

- If you encounter any problems with voting, report them immediately by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)

* Know Your Vote – if you are undecided, or if you know of voters who are undecided, keep in mind three key points:

- Jobs: Wisconsin under Walker was the only state in the union to lose jobs, with 23,900 jobs disappearing between March 2011 and March 2012

- Money: Walker has already spent more than $28 million trying to buy the election, with 70% of that money coming from out of state.  By contrast, Tom Barrett has raised $3.8 million, more than 70% of it coming from within Wisconsin.

- Ethics: The John Doe investigation of alleged illegal activities of Walker associates while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive continues to get closer to Walker himself, with Walker’s closest aide Tim Russell now apparently cooperating with the investigation