In 2005 I was pulled over for a routine traffic stop. In 2006, I nearly went to jail over it.
It was bad enough that I was pulled over for something I didn't actually do. What made it worse was that my drivers' license, which I had paid to renew a couple of months before, had not been renewed, nor had I been notified that it wasn't renewed.
Driving with an expired license meant they could impound my car and leave me there standing in my PJs after a morning school drop. I opted to walk home and leave the car parked instead.
Unraveling all of this took me some time, mostly due to name changes. I was born with one name, acquired another one in 1978 when I was married for the first time, dropped that in 1989 when I was divorced and went back to my maiden name, then married in 1989 and had a new last name. It's not all that uncommon, actually.
Evidently somewhere along the way the Social Security Administration hadn't caught up with the name changes, so when they ran the renewal for my drivers' license there was a mismatch, which caused my license not to renew, but evidently didn't give the DMV a reason to let me know that.
Understanding the problem was far easier than fixing it. In California, your identity on your drivers' license must match up with your Social Security name of record, thanks to the Real ID Act. If it doesn't, you won't get a license. It doesn't matter how many certified documents you plunk on the table, and in my case, I plunked plenty.
I was missing one crucial document, one I could not get. I had my certified (long form) birth certificate with raised seal, I had a certified copy of my divorce decree changing my name back to my maiden name, and I had a certified copy of my current marriage certificate. Social Security had my maiden name, but to prove your identity with the Social Security administration, you must supply twodocuments with that name on them.
Of course, I only had one, and it was not acceptable under their requirements. This is because Social Security requires a drivers' license to establish identity. Can you say Catch-22? In order to get my drivers' license issued, I had to have a Social Security match. I didn't. And in order to establish my identity for Social Security, I had to have a valid drivers' license which I no longer had because my license had expired.
Alternatively, the Social Security office (after three trips), said they might accept a yearbook photo or other photo ID with my maiden name, but this was in 2005 and I hadn't had that name on anything since, oh, 1978 or so.
On December 23, 2005 I finally had a meltdown at the Social Security Administration window at 4:00 pm after sitting there with every document I could find to demonstrate that I was in fact who I was. Keep in mind that my first name never changed. My picture on my expired drivers' license was me. No one disputed that. I was due in court the first week of 2006 and expected to produce a valid drivers' license or go to jail, and they were deadly serious about that, as I discovered.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I actually did burst into tears in abject frustration that day, and the nice public worker at the window finally had mercy on me and agreed to take copies of all of my documents and get a supervisor to approve my name change. But because of the holidays, she couldn't promise me the name change would actually appear in their database anytime soon.
So I went to court and landed in front of a judge and assistant DA who surely must be Tea Party members today. Yes, I was hostile. Yes, I was frustrated. I certainly wasn't humble enough for them, because I was angry -- furious, in fact -- that I was being humiliated in public because I couldn't satisfy the idiotic bureaucratic Catch-22 requirements to actually be standing there with a verified drivers' license, and no, I couldn't even show them a temporary license because the databases were still mismatched.
However, they didn't toss me in the clink. I was granted a grumpy ten-day extension, and a kind DMV worker agreed to call me the minute the databases matched. One day before the extension expired, I was handed my temporary license with my name which now matches up with the Social Security database.
It took two and a half months from the day of the ticket to the day I was able to finally say my identity was established.
I'm a white, middle-aged mom of three. I've voted in every single election since I was 18. I've lived at the same address for twenty years. I'm hardly a transient, and I'm hardly stuffing the ballot box.If California had VoterID laws like the states that have put them into effect, I would have been banned from voting in any election that was held in that 2 1/2 months. And if I hadn't been pulled over for that citation, I could possibly have been ignorant of the fact that my license wasn't renewed for months, since renewal usually means you pay the fee and at some point you receive a sticker, but who pays attention to that?
It's not just the poor, elderly, and people of color affected by these laws. It's women. Lots of women. Women who change their names on their Social Security card but wait to change them on their license until the next renewal. Women who use both names. Many, many women.The fallout is just beginning and time is short.
People need to understand how these Voter ID laws disenfranchise ordinary people -- Republican AND Democrat -- for reasons that are bogus, stupid, and discriminate against women.