Marvin is a wonderful, sweet gentleman who lives in a tiny boarding house in Atlanta. We met him this summer and we started working to get him an ID. But Marvin was born in a Jim Crow town that didn't give birth certificates to black babies. It's tough enough to get a birth certificate REPLACED, but when you never had one in the first place... that's a challenge.
So, we had to FOIA the Social Security Administration for something called a Numident Record.
It costs $27.
....It's basically a history of your Social Security life and in some states, for some forms of ID, if you are a certain age you can use it in place of a birth certificate.
As you can imagine, the SSA is not the fastest agency in the world. It took almost four months to get Marvin's ID. Our amazing volunteer Karen was on the phone with them every week trying to find out when they would mail the record. And Marvin was calling me every week because this ID means everything to him.
You see, Marvin is trapped in his home because in order to take wheelchair-accessible public transportation you need an ID to sign up. Seriously.
Not only that, but he is spending most of his income on rent for his very small room in the boarding house. He has an opportunity for better, less expensive housing but, you guessed it, he needs ID.
So Marvin called every week for three months and every week we had to say "We're so sorry Marvin, we're doing everything we can, we just have to keep waiting". It was terrible.
But then the SSA finally mailed the form. It was thrilling. Of course, then we had the problem of transportation. Like I said, he can't take public transportation. So we had to hire a private company to pick him up, wait while they were at the DMV, and take him home.
It cost $130.
There is no way Marvin would have been able to afford that on his own.
And then this morning, Karen took Marvin to the DMV and he got his ID!
It cost us $189.
When we went to Marvin's house this summer and told him that we were getting him an ID, he asked how much it would cost. We told him we would pay for everything and he started to cry. Because, like every single person we work with, he knew that he would never be able to afford an ID on his own.
This was one of the toughest cases we have had so far and it is exactly why I started Spread The Vote. Because voter ID is voter suppression. Because IDs are about a lot more than voting. Because we are changing lives every single day.
Think it's not a poll tax? How out of reach is it when a disabled person can't afford to gain access to public transportation without a driver's license?!?
Think this one voter doesn't make a difference? Republicans are passing these laws because 12 million voters in the US lack the ID necessary to vote.
Getting them ID is a small step toward righting the wrong, but until these laws are overturned making it possible for one voter to get ID, not only to vote, but to ride public transportation and gain access to housing? This kind of Resistance must go on until all of the Marvins have equal access to that which the rest of us take for granted.