ID Me


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.

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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?

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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.

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