Friday, September 14, 2012


After a Facebook post I made yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot about how you get an ID card. If I didn’t have one, how would I get one?

In order to vote in Minnesota under the new amendment, you need a Minnesota Driver’s license, or state-issued identification card. You cannot vote with a passport, or any other kind of federally-recognized ID. So, you need to get a state card.

How do you get such an ID?

Here’s a link to the page — I looked for it so you don’t have to, it’s not exactly an intuitive Google search.

And here’s the list of approved identification documents. You will need one primary and one secondary document in order to apply for a state-issued ID.

The first bullet point is the most commonly stated one — a birth certificate.

Do you know where your birth certificate is?

I don’t know where mine is; I don’t know if I personally have ever had possession of it. And the hospital where I was born is closed. For Patrick (who does actually have his), it would be even harder to get a copy since many records in Louisiana, where he was born, are gone post-Katrina.

Alright, so I go to get my birth certificate, per these instructions.

I get together $26 to pay for the copy, I print the form, I get it notarized (all this takes about an hour away from my workday), I get ready to send it all in, until I come across this line of the instructions:

Enclose a photocopy of your valid driver's license or state issued identification card

See the problem here?

I’m not eligible for most of the other allowable forms of ID, such as a “secure unexpired Minnesota tribal identification card” or a “certified adoption certificate from a U.S. court.” In short, if I do not already have a state identification card for whatever reason, there’s a good chance I am out of luck for getting one now.

Say I do resolve this, I find my birth certificate and my passport, or secure other forms of identification, I go down and get the state ID card (taking more time out of my day, the wait when I was there last week was over 2 hours) and costing me another $17.25 (assuming I don’t need it expedited for another $20). So I am out between $17-50 in document costs, plus whatever hours I had to take off work.

How is this not a de facto poll tax?


With all this hassle and rigamarole and timing issues and the like, there is no way that you can say it’s not an impediment to require people to have an ID to vote. It’s been exhausting to even track down the information.

But here is where I get down to policy. I don’t have a Minnesota ID card, so I can’t speak to that.

What it comes down to for me, in relation to policy, it that my Minnesota driver’s license is just that — a license to operate a vehicle. It’s a specific legal document. It’s not meant to stand in for another kind of documentation (which is why I don’t even print my license number on my checks, the way many people do).

If you want to even begin the voter ID discussion with me, offer me a free, universal, and accessible form of identification that you propose to do that with.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


This plant grew spontaneously in the back yard at Summit (and is kind of taking it over). It kind of summarizes our summer — strange, unexpected, kind of beautiful, and overwhelming.

But more to the point, does anyone know what it is? (and is it edible?)

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It's moving in day at the small liberal arts college down the street. When I drove down to the hardware store this morning I saw groups of students sitting in circles on the lawns, harried-looking parents with maps pulling suitcases, and felt a general current of expectancy in the air. It was pretty idyllic.

I often wonder why I look back on college with such nostalgia, and why, 23 years after I have graduated, those moments all remain so vivid to me. I can remember so much from my classes, from the Arena Theatre, from parties, from dining halls and the Quad and the library and dorms and the laundry and our apartment on Belknap Street. This is even more remarkable considering that, like many of my fellow students, I studied abroad my junior year (cue even more memories), and lived off-campus when  I returned.

I'm really happy I chose Tufts. It was the ideal school for me — academically rigorous, but with a real-world element that encouraged me to learn and grow; maybe that's why the memories are so vivid. I'm proud that I still have many friends from those days. And I suppose the point is, that if I remember it so well, it's because it had a profound influence on me. It's the kind of influence I saw on those circle of students this morning.


On another nostalgic note, today would have been my mother's 74th birthday. Beatrix and I are sitting on the porch at the Summit house, and I think she would have approved of this perfect morning.