Category Archives: government

How Voter ID Laws Disenfranchise Individual American Citizens

I don’t really take in much news myself, but I have been hearing little snippets of interest regarding voter ID laws, and it occurred to me that some of you may be wondering: “How does having to show ID when voting disenfranschise whole groups of citizens?”  My answer is: It doesn’t. It disenfranchises more than a few individual American citizens. It makes me wonder how many non-citizens are trying to vote fraudulently when only half of all Americans actually bother to vote if they can’t hit a “Like” button. Everybody seems to be up in arms about whether this dispropotionately affects blacks and hispanics. Yes, it does. Just look at ANY other data related to almost ANYTHING. This is not news. What matters is that it affects American citizens, and that includes ALL of us regardless of race or ethnicity, and it actually has more to do with income level alone than anything else.

I have been employed in the social service industry for the better part of the last 12 years. One of the services every program I have ever worked on provides is assistance with obtaining Government Issued Identification, and over the years I have assisted hundreds of individuals with obtaining the documentation necessary to obtain the Government Issued Identification, so that my clients may then obtain employment.

Any time you start a new job, the first thing you provide is I-9 documentation. This is usually your driver’s license and your social security card. If you cannot provide these items, you cannot legally be employed in the U.S.

Since I reside in Texas, let’s just have a look at the documentation you need to replace a lost or stolen Driver’s License or ID.

Documents Needed To Replace Texas Drivers License 

When a driver visits the Texas driver licensing office, they must provide:

  1. Proof of identity
  2. Proof of lawful presence
  3. Proof of Social Security

So, one by one:

1. Proof Of Identity (must include full name, date of birth, and photo):

Texas Driver License or Identification Certificate
Yes, you need to use a Texas Driver’s License to replace your lost/stolen Texas Driver’s license…You may use an expired Texas Driver’s License or ID within two years of the expiration date to satisfy this requirement.
 Valid United States passport
I may be making generalities, but most low income individuals do NOT have a passport. They generally don’t travel abroad frequently, if at all. Seriously, they use Cap Metro and are lucky to have a bus pass, nevermind a plane ticket!
    Valid Military ID
My experience has provided me no familiarity with the process to acquire this document, but I DO have experience dealing with the Department of Veteran’s affairs and it is sorely lacking in efficiency.
United States Citizenship Certificate
My experience has provided me no familiarity with the process to acquire this document
Certificate of Naturalization
Same with this… I know what it IS, but I am unfamiliar with the process to acquire this document)
Valid OR Expired Foreign Passport 
I’m not sure I understand why the U.S. Passport has to be valid, but the Foreign Passport can be expired, except that you also need ADDITIONAL documentation when using a foriegn passport. Additional documentation is not an option with an expired U.S. passport.

2. Proof Of Lawful Presence (must include full name and date of birth):

Original or Certified Copy of Birth Certificate
You must order this from the Office of Vital records in the state you were born; Cost: $12-$20, and it can be done online if you have plastic. Otherwise, (by the way some people don’t have a bank card of any sort), you go to HEB and pay $.50 for a money order, then the additional $.44 for a stamp to mail it.
You can print the application from the website and here in Texas this can be done free of charge at any Workforce Solutions office.  You can also go to the library, though they may charge something for the printing, let’s say $.50 per page at two pages, so $1. Oh, you’ll need an envelope too, hopefully you have one around or have a friend who can give one up, otherwise you’ll need to purchase one (or several to get just one), but lets assume you can buy one at the post office and call it $.50
Cost if you have plastic: $12-$15
Cost if you do not have plastic: $17-$22
Time to receive: One to six weeks depending on the locality in which you were born.
Original of Certified Copy of U.S. Department of State Certification of Birth Abroad (Some people are U.S. Citizens with full right to vote, but were born abroad. My experience has provided me no familiarity with the process to acquire this document. I feel safe saying the monetary cost would be somewhat greater than obtaining a United States birth certificate)
Original or Certified Copy of Court Order (must show name and date of birth)
If you have been divorced and still have your documents around, you are in luck! Of course there are other types of certified court orders, and you can request them from any Clerk’s office for a fee. They usually charge around $5 plus the cost of making the copy. You would expect to pay about $11 if you didn’t have this or any of the aforementioned documents handy. These fees vary by state and locality.

Okay great! So hopefully you were born in the U.S. (not a military brat), have a bank or credit card, and have $12-22. If for some reason, you are lacking that $12-$22, well then you will just have to wait until you get your paycheck…

“But wait! I was actually trying to get a job, that is WHY I need the Birth Certificate. You see, my driver’s license was stolen because I live in the modern day ghetto, where everything gets stolen all the time. I am currently unemployed and I cannot prove my legal right to work in the US without Government Issued Photo ID (nevermind voting for now!). But to get the ID, I need a copy of my birth certificate. My mom said she had one, but her house was flooded last year and it was lost. As soon as I get my birth certificate, I can get my Government Issued ID, and go get a job and have the money… to get the ID…”

This is a scenario that is more common than you might think!

I think now might be a good time to go ahead and do the math to demonstrate what an individual WORKING FULL TIME at MINIMUM WAGE has to work with, financially. Here we go:

This is the minimum wage workers annual salary at 40 hours per week:

7.25 x 2080 (this is the number of hours worked in a year for a FT employee) = 15080. This isn’t very common and I can go into that in further detail later as well. But for now:

$15,080 Annual GROSS income. Let’s just not even assume any Fed taxes, BUT Social Security Tax (  is currently 4.2%, so we will subtract that.

$15080 – $633.36 = $14,446.64 Net Annual Income

It is helpful to look at this monthly since we know what the cost of living is in our own cities, and the minimum wage is the same everywhere. So:

$14446.64/12 = $1203.89 per month.

I’m not fond of averages, so the MEDIAN cost of a ONE bedroom in Austin right now is $1034 per month.  (

You don’t even need to DO any math to understand why a person busting his ass at minimum wage might have a hard time coming up with the money to order his birth certificate. And by the way, he’s actually only getting 32 hours a week not 40, because that’s the maximum number of hours allowable before the employer has to offer him the same benefits as the full time workers at his company. That includes any Paid Time Off he might need to hang out at the DMV all day to provide this documentation.  AND, this isn’t even the only document he needs. Remember, we are still working on obtaining ONE item required by the TX DMV to relplace this gentlemans lost/stolen Government Issued ID. We STILL need:

3. Proof Of Social Security:

Social Security card
You need to have your birth certificate (see above)  and a certified court order with your name and D.O.B. in order to get the SS card if you do not have a Government Issued photo ID
 W-2 Form
You can get this in about one to two weeks from a former employer, or if you are super fortunate, online and it is FREE either way
1099 Form Most of the individuals who this affects work under the table, not as independent contractors. Did you give the guy you hired to cut your grass a 1099 at the end of the year?
Temporary receipt for a Texas driver license (needs to be actual receipt
I must be missing something. This is issued for use between the time you applied for your license and the time it arrives in the mail.

There is a whole list of other supporting documentation that you can use if you find yourself in a unique situation, but in all cases, acquiring the necessary docs to replace your ID costs two things most poor folks don’t have: Time and money. Incidentally, one of the supporting documents you can provide along with your birth certificate is a voter registration card. You can use your voter registration card to obtain your Government Issued ID, so that you can vote.

What groups can become disenfranchised due to lack of Government Issued ID? I know that nobody cares if the homeless, recently released from jail, and low income folks are disenfranchised, but those are not the only groups of people this affects. Think of the victim of domestic violence who finally had the courage to flee her home, leaving all of her possessions, including her documents behind. She can’t just go home and pick her stuff up without the risk of bodily harm. And even if she had a police escort, the abuser has most likely done away her personal possessions anyway. And today is voting day! I guess the message would be, wait until after the polls close to leave an abusive situation.

The homeless in our nation are also deserving of a vote. There are plenty of guys at the ARCH due to recent divorce and the subsequent depression that led to job loss, and further depression. A short downward spiral like that can put anyone on the street, and if you dont believe me, you haven’t lived much.

I once worked with a homeless man who had been a Marine Sharphooter during Vietnam. He was short little Hispanic man with a face like a cherub. He had worked as a bricklayer since his return from Vietnam. Now in his mid 50’s, his body was giving in from the hard work of laying brick and he was no longer able to continue in the only line of work he knew. In addition to that he was also suffering from severe anxiety and some depression, making it difficult for him to accomplish what would otherwise be simple tasks.

I assisted him with obtaining Government Issued ID after his had been stolen during his stay at the local Salvation Army Homeless Shelter (Sally, for short). He finally obtained employment as a cook at IHOP. His second day on the job, I receive a phone call from him. “Nicole, okay…I have all my clothes laid out on the bed to go to work, but I got a flat tire on my bicycle last night and I dont have any means of fixing it and I don’t know what to do next.” “Have you called in to work to let them know what is going on?” “No, I didn’t think…” I proceeded to walk this gentleman through the rest of steps necessary to get to work that day. Step by step, no detail left undiscussed. Do you think this man doesn’t deserve a vote? He is an american citizen, and so yes, he does. He also fought for our freedoms as have many, many of our current homeless population.

I can hear what you are thinking: “But Nicole, your programs offer assistance to these people to help them get the ID they need to vote! So, there is no problem.” Yes, you are correct, we can help with that at no cost to the client. You and I pay for it with our tax dollars, and that’s fine with me. Just tack on the additional week that it takes me to get the funding request approved. Please realize too that we do much more than simply assist individuals with obtaining Government Issued ID. That is just the FIRST thing we do so that our client is work-ready. I’m struggling with our budget, meaning there are some people who recieve assistance and some who do not, and the decision has little to do with the client. Those are the tough decisions, the ones that need to be made when there simply is not enough to go around, not enough to meet the need.


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