Jun 30 2011

Cognitive Dissonance and the Free ID Bill

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, State Politics

Stolen from Think Progress

I’ve had a little time to think about all the rules and regulations required to receive one of those “free” ID’s I wrote about yesterday and after looking at the regulations, I’m pretty sure they’re not free at all.

When you consider the dollars in time spent and fees to get the required documents together, plus who this bill disenfranchises, all of the sudden it becomes exceedingly clear what the real motivation was, and that this high bar may actually be unconstitutional.

So first, we’ll look at the actual requirements.

State law requires 4 kinds of ID verification if you want a state photo ID. Two verifying identity, two that verify residence. We’ll start with the identity part:

Primary ID Documents

Documents Needed Cost
U.S. photo driver license or photo ID card, License from another country

May also include photo learner permits.
U.S. Department of State Driver’s License also acceptable.

Cost: unknown.

These vary from state to state. Of course, if you already have a photo ID it’s a heck of a lot easier to prove you’re who you say you are.

Original or Certified Birth Certificate

Must be original or certified, have an official seal and be issued by an authorized government agency such as the Bureau of Vital Statistics or State Board of Health.

IMPORTANT: Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 will not be recognized as a form of primary or secondary identification beginning November 1, 2010.

The government of Puerto Rico has provided information for citizens to apply for new birth certificates.

Foreign birth certificates, not issued in English, must be translated and accompanied by a Certificate of Accurate Translation.

NOTE: Hospital issued certificates (mother’s copy) are not acceptable.

Cost: Depends

A basic birth certificate in Tennessee costs $8. However, to get one you also have certain ID requirements

On top of that, I’m not sure if you’ve tried to get a birth certificate lately, but it’s not exactly the speediest process. Cost in time spent could be as short as 30 min, and as long as 3 hours.

Military Identification
Active Duty, Retiree or Reservist military ID card (DD Form 2 or 2A)
Discharge papers (DD-214)
Military Dependent ID card (for spouse or children of Active Duty Military personnel)
Cost:minimal if you’ve served in the military.

Again, if you’ve already got one of these, your identity should be pretty easy to prove.

Military ID’s are acceptable for voting.

Valid, Unexpired United States Passport Cost:High

Also, if you already have one of these, you can use it to vote.

Valid, Unexpired Foreign Passport
Foreign passports must contain a Valid United States Visa or I-94 to be used as a primary proof of indentification.

Foreign passports, not issued in English, must be translated and accompanied by a Certificate of Accurate Translation. Passports are not acceptable if expired.

Cost: Who knows?

What’s more, this may work for an ID, but if you have a foreign passport, chances are you don’t qualify to vote, unless you have dual citizenship or something

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service Documentation

Certificate of Naturalization N-550, N-570, N-578
Certificate of Citizenship N-560, N-561, N-645
Employment Authorization card (I-766)
Northern Mariana Card
American Department of Indian Affairs Tribal Card
U.S. Citizen Identification Card (I-179, I-197)
Temporary Resident Identification Card (I-688)
Travel Documents Record of Arrival and Departure (I-94)
Border Crossing Identification (I-586)
Nonimmigrant Visa/Border Crossing Card (DSP-150)
U.S. Re-entry Permit (I-327)
Refugee I-94 Record of Arrival and Departure stamped “Refugee”
Refugee Travel Document (I-571)
Canadian Immigration Record and Visa or Record of Landing (IMM 100)
Canadian Department of Indian Affairs issued ID card.

Cost: Too many to quantify.

Some of these are free, some may not be. Honestly, many of them don’t apply to citizens, so they wouldn’t work for the purposes of voting anyway, just getting an ID

Marriage License/Certificate

Must include the applicant’s full name and date of birth. The certificate must be the original or certified copy that is registered AFTER the marriage; NOT just the “license”authorizing the union.

Cost:$15 in Tennessee.

Other states likely vary.

Federal Census Record

Must include the applicant’s full name and date of birth (age).

Cost: Free?

Honestly, I don’t even know what this is.

Applicant’s Own Child’s Birth Certificate

Must include the applicant’s (i.e parent’s) full name and date of birth not just “age” of parent at the time of the child’s birth.

Cost: See birth certificate above.

This is really for children seeking their first state issued ID. I don’t think my mom needs to come with me to the DMV to get an ID, but you never know, that could change.

Adoptive Decree

Must include the applicant’s full name and date of birth.

Cost: How much is an adoption?

Again, this seems to be geared toward children seeking their first state issued ID

Legal Change of Name (Divorce, etc.)

As recorded in court decree with judge’s original signature and/or official court seal.

NOTE: Copy of court document with copied seal/signature is not acceptable. Copy of court document with an original signature/seal that is affixed to copy is acceptable.

Cost: How much is a divorce?

Seriously, if nothing else there are copying fees involved if a person doesn’t have or has lost this document after a divorce, and of course, ID requirements to even get this information

Any confirmation of date of birth in court of law

As recorded in court document(s) with judge’s original signature and/or official court seal.

NOTE: Copy of court document with copied seal/signature is not acceptable. Copy of court document with an original signature/seal that is affixed to copy is acceptable.

Cost: Again there are copying costs and ID requirements associated with this.

In short, if you can get a copy of this, you likely already have the ID necessary to get a state issued photo ID

Any other documentary evidence which confirms to the satisfaction of the Department the true identity and date of birth of the applicant. Ahh, well that clears things up. Seems a bit arbitrary. It would be interesting to send in two people with identical non-conforming information and see if they both get the same result.

Maybe someone should test this

If you have one of these things you have completed step 1. On to step 2.

Secondary ID Documents

Documents Needed Cost
Computerized Check Stubs

Must include the applicant’s full name pre-printed on the stub.

I wonder how they determine what’s “computerized”. Also, I could knock one of these out in a heartbeat. Really, anyone with a computer and a little time could too.
Union Membership Cards
Must include the applicant’s full name preferably with photo and/or Social Security number.
Cost:Union Membership

Actually, after what they did this session to unions, this is kind of surprising

Work IDs

Preferably with photo and/or Social Security number.


If you work at a place that requires an ID this may help, but most don’t.

Financial Institution Documents

Computer printouts of bank statements, savings account statements, loan documents, etc.

Cost: Bank fees.

Believe it or not, not everyone has a bank account. This reality is evidenced by the huge influx of “Check Cashing” places all over the state.

Social Security Documents

Social Security Card (original only not metal or plastic replicas)
Printout or benefits statements, etc.
Social Security Check or Direct Deposit Verification of Social Security Check

Cost: Free if

If you have time to wait for SSA to issue a new card, or happen to have a statement handy.

Health Insurance Card

TennCare, Medicaid, Medicare, etc.
Health Insurance Card
Insurance Policies or Payment statements

Cost: Unknown

If you have Tenncare or something like that it may be free, or not. Honestly, this is not an area of expertise for me.

IRS/state tax form

W2 Forms, Property tax receipts, etc.

Cost: Free?

If you work you may have an old W-2 lying around. I wonder how old it can be before they no longer accept it.

Military Records

Assignment orders, selective service cards, Leave & Earnings Statement, etc.
United States or Foreign

Cost: Free

If you served in the military and they mess with you at the polling place or the ID office, shame on them.

School Records

Transcript of grades
Elementary Immunization or “Shot” Records
Diploma or G.E.D.

Cost: Varies

Most high schools will release your transcripts for a small copying and postage fee. Again, proof of identity is usually required for this, so if this is an option, you probably don’t need it in the first place

Vehicle Documents

Vehicle Registration or title
Bill of Sale or purchase contract

Cost: Depends

If you can buy a car, you also probably already have ID.

Ok, so after you’ve found 2 things that satisfy that requirement, you still have to prove your residence. Here’s that lovely list.

Two Documents from List A
Documents must show residence address used on application and your name or the name of your spouse. Proof of relationship will be required unless you are using the spouse’s Tennessee Driver License number and it has the same last name and address as the applicant.

If the applicant is a minor child or adult child still residing with parents, proof of relationship is also required with the name of the parent or legal guardian.


One Document from List A and One Document from List B

List A
• Current utility bill including landline telephone, electric, water, gas, cable, etc. (Wireless telephone bills cannot be accepted)
• Current bank statement (Internet bank statements are acceptable only if taken to the local bank, stamped and dated by teller as an active account. Checks and checkbook information are not acceptable)
• Current rental/Mortgage contract or receipt including deed of sale for property.
• Current employer verification of residence address or letter from employer as long as it is on company letterhead with original signature. If employer does not have letterhead then signature of employer must be notarized.
• Current paycheck/check stub, work ID or badge, if address is included.
• Current automobile, life or health insurance policy (Wallet Cards cannot be accepted)
• Current driver license/ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety to a parent, legal guardian or spouse of applicant
• Current Tennessee motor vehicle registration or title
• Current Tennessee voter registration
• Current Internal Revenue Service tax reporting W-2 form within last 12 months
• Receipt for personal property or real estate taxes paid within past last year
• In case of a student enrolled in public or private school in this state, student may provide a photo student ID and acceptable documentation from the Dean or Bursar Office that the student lives on campus.

List B

• Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service
• Form I-94 issued to the applicant by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service
• Employment Authorization card (I-766) issued to the applicant by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service
• I-551 issued to the applicant by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service

If you made it through all that, could find the appropriate documents, and they were accepted by the folks at the ID place, you can get your free ID. Congratulations. Of course, if you didn’t have these documents handy, there’s no telling how much time and money you may have had to spend to actually get one of these “free ID’s”.

Finally, here’s a list that Bill Ketron, the author of both bills, passed along noting what is acceptable ID.

Jun 29 2011

Free ID Law Not as “Free” as it Could Be

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, State Politics

Stolen from Think Progress

On Monday, WMCTV reported on some of the voting law changes that will be coming into effect. Since voting is one of those things that I think more people should do, I thought it would be good to look at just what the requirements were that are coming in.

First, after January 1, 2012, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, you will have to have a valid photo ID to vote. That means you must have a drivers license, state issued ID card, passport, or military ID to vote using a normal ballot (or machine as the case may be). Any other kind of ID will mean you’ll have to do a provisional ballot and then prove your identity within 4 business days of the election to have that vote count.

Another bill that passed is SB 1666, which provides free ID cards for registered voters. The legislature rightly noted that passing an ID law without creating some avenue to receive an ID free of cost is essentially a poll tax, or at least that’s what the US Supreme Court has held. By providing free ID’s the state avoids the possibility of having the voter ID bill ruled unconstitutional.

Starting Friday July 1st, any registered voter that does not have a current valid photo ID can go to a Driver Service Center Location and get a free ID card for the purposes of voting.

The cards may not cost anything to get, but they aren’t easy either. In order to get one you’ll need a primary proof of identity, a secondary proof of identity and two proofs of residency.

In addition to all that, the voter must sign an affidavit saying they meet these conditions:

(1) Does not have a valid government issued photo identification;
(2) Is a registered voter in this state; and
(3) Needs the photo identification license for voting purposes.

That’s a pretty tall order for folks who can’t afford or don’t have an ID in the first place, don’t you think?

Currently, the ID requirements to vote are pretty low. You only need a voter registration card, Driver’s license, or state issued id, or two of the items in this list.

Now that the state will soon be requiring a photo ID, after January 1, 2012 the bar will be twice as hard as it is now, which will, no doubt come as a surprise to some voters in the March Presidential Preference election.

I spoke with an official at the TN Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security, the agency that issues Driver’s licenses and ID cards, and they said that as of right now there is not a PDF of the affidavit available online. Maybe that will be forthcoming in the next few days. They also said that at some point in the future, people seeking a state issued ID will not be able to leave the office with it, rather it will be mailed to them. So, for instance, if you forgot to renew your license or need a new photo and go to the office to get it, you’ll have to wait for the US mail to deliver it, which will suck if your renewal date is near election day.

There are a whole lot more questions about this free ID law as well as the ID voting requirements. The ultimate consequences will not be known until the first part comes into effect on Friday. That said, I would suggest that anyone who doesn’t have a state issued ID now, and wants to vote take advantage of the free ID system asap. There’s no telling what regulatory changes will take place between now and January. The sooner you have your ID in order, the easier it will be to ensure you can vote in 2012.

Jun 28 2011

Uncle Sam Needs You

Jun 24 2011

Playing Offense

Posted by Steve Ross in activism, elections, National Politics

Senator Al Franken - MN
From his Senate Website

We as a progressive movement are losing the argument. On issue after issue, we’re playing defense. – Sen. Al Franken (D) – MN

(video of his full comments can be found below, as well as a link to the full text)

There’s this old saying that defense wins championships.

That may be true, but that depends on the terms of the game. In football, basketball, and even soccer and hockey there is a time limit. There are referees that enforce the rules. Under these conditions, effective defense may win championships by limiting the number of points your opponent may score. At the end of the day, defense without a healthy offense ends in a draw at best, or a loss. Without an offense, even the benefit of a time limit and “impartial” observers may not be enough to make the difference.

In politics the game is much different. There is no time limit. There are few real referees. The rules are not clearly defined, and are becoming even less so as time passes. Relying on defense may stop some of the lost ground, but it will not necessarily gain you any ground. You need offense, even if it is a conservative offense, to move the “ball” down the field. To gain position, and to use the time of possession against your opponent.

Most Democrats will concede that our offense has been lacking, both nationally and locally. I won’t speculate as to why. The reasons are as wide and varied as the kinds of candidates we field, but at the end of the day, without a solid offense, no defense in the world is going to save you.

This is something that we in the “progressive blogosphere™” have been talking about for years. Nationally, I know it’s been part of the conversation since the 2004 election. Here in Tennessee, there’s been a lot of discussion about this on a more localized level since the 2008 elections. Through those discussions, there is some disagreement on just how that “offense” should be executed. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any one particular way to do it. You have to be ready to adjust to your opponent. Relying on one thing over another is a mistake that limits your ability to adjust. But at this point, I think just about everyone on our side would be happy with proof of life on any kind of offense.

What do I mean specifically? How about not falling for “straw man” arguments? Or maybe asserting your beliefs strongly and passionately rather than resting on some generic idea of “Democratic Values” which is a nice idea, but not as universal as it sounds, and falls flat on many voters across the spectrum. We have to actively define ourselves as Democrats. That’s what Franken means when he says “we’re losing the argument”… we’ve allowed ourselves to be defined, which means we’re neither playing offense, nor is our defense all that great either.

In order to win the argument, we have to passionately and succinctly assert who we are and what we stand for. We have to pull our flag up from the ground and stop merely defending our position, we have to advance our position.

Doing this feels risky for risk averse politicians worried about the next election. But the truth of the matter is that not doing so is even more risky. As we become more entrenched in what we must defend, getting ourselves out of that trench to gain ground becomes a tougher climb.

It’s time for our Democratic leaders to either lead or get out of the way. It’s time to stop relying solely on defense and put the damn offense on the field. It’s time to gain some ground. Until this happens, either by some serious stepping up, or stepping out of the way, Democrats in Tennessee will continue to be marginalized, largely of their own doing.

(h/t HuffPo though they likely wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to me)

Jun 17 2011

Good Government is a Partnership, Not an Entitlement

Posted by Steve Ross in activism

Partnerships don't maintain themselves, they take effort from all sides

First, some definitions:

Partnership: An association of people working together for common goals and aims for their benefit.

Entitlement: A belief that one has a right to something with minimal or no contribution.

One persistent complaint that I hear about Memphis, from people who mostly live outside the city, is that the whole place is corrupt, from the City government and all its divisions to the schools, and the developers and regular joes on the street, depending on ingrained prejudices of the complainer.

I’ll grant you that Memphis has problems, but the notion that Memphis is the home of corruption says more about the speaker than Memphis, and what it says isn’t particularly pretty. Yeah we’ve got a lot of things to address, and yes those issues are challenging, but the lens through which these individuals see the world is one of having no skin in the game.

Memphis is a regional financial and population center. That means that a lot of what goes on in this area, which includes most of west TN, north MS, east AR, and even parts of KY and MO, happens because Memphis has this mantle. From that frame, all those parties, as well as the people of Memphis have skin in the game. The better Memphis does, the better all these surrounding areas will do.

But that’s not the way people have chosen to look at it.

It’s easy to leave. It’s easy to whisk yourself away to your quiet suburban neighborhood in the County, or in DeSoto, or Crittenden and forget how much of your life and livelihood depends on Memphis being the best Memphis it can be. In fact, we’ve made it too easy over the years, expanding infrastructure to accomodate people who have checked out of being a part of the solution, often with little or no effort.

Good government doesn’t just happen, it is intentional. It requires the participation of all those that have a stake in the success of an area. It requires people to serve as checks on power both at the ballot box, and the 1460 days between election days. It requires engagement and an understanding of issues that often fall outside our personal bubbles.

For instance, blight is not a serious problem in my neighborhood just outside of Central Gardens. Sure there are some ugly buildings. There are things that just don’t fit the character and every time I pass them I wonder just what the heck someone was thinking. But I understand that blight be it a half mile away, or 5 miles away, negatively impacts me personally, even if I don’t see it every day. It depresses home values across the city even if it doesn’t exist next door. That, in turn, negatively impacts city tax revenue, which negatively impacts investments we should be making in our city, as well as vital services. All these things impact me, and they impact you too.

But too often we only look at the symptom. “This road is falling apart”, “Crime is too high”, “Traffic is a mess”, whatever the complaint, it is not just constrained to the situation, it is a symptom of a bigger problem.

We, as a people feel entitled to good government, as if it is supposed to just make itself in a vacuum. As if it can judge for us what is good and what is bad with no input. This sense of entitlement is a passive aggressive stance, and one that is ultimately toxic for both the government and the people served by that government.

Certainly, everyone directly involved in government should endeavor to create and maintain “good government”, whatever that is. But people are human, and because we are human we are fallible. Because our institutions, be they governments, or religious institutions, or other associations are made up of people, they are also fallible, and subject to failures as a result.

You don’t have to look far for examples of this fallibility outside of government. The persistent reports of child abuse from clergy, which, despite perception, is not unique to the Catholic church, is an example of institutional failures due to human fallibility.

From that frame, the expectation that people, be they government officials or religious leaders, are just supposed to do the right thing on their own, is entitlement at its worst. Certainly we hope for this, but to expect it is folly. If you want something, you have to go out and make it. The people who benefit most from our institutions understand this.

“But they have too much power, access, etc.” That may be true, but access has become much easier. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t communicate with one of my elected officials. Just the other day I talked to Kemp Conrad, not because I have extraordinary access, but because we engaged each other. Through that engagement, hopefully, we both came away with a better understanding of our perspectives. Through this intentional engagement, my concerns, my perspective was heard. Whether or not it will impact the way Councilman Conrad votes is another issue entirely, but it was heard, and responded to, and in a partnership of over 600,000 people that make up Memphis, its something.

We all have to stop relying on someone else to do it for us. Certainly there are good people out there working for the good of all. People like Brad Watkins with Mid-South Peace and Justice Center who made tackling the homelessness problem in Memphis the cornerstone of MSPJC’s mission. Or Memphis Heritage who lobbied relentlessly to save a historic building from demolition. But these people can’t do this on their own, and neither can government. They need engagement, they need the energy of the people to find the best solutions for the challenges facing the city. They need it all the time, not just at budget time or on election day.

And that’s one of the primary failures of Memphis as an economic and population center. We don’t, as citizens or a government, act as though we’re thinking three moves ahead, we react.

There are some significant problems with relying on a reaction rather than action. First, you’re a step behind. Second, whatever you decide to do or not do is colored by the source of information. So if it’s budget time and people are talking about an issue as if it’s waste, you may decide its waste too, only to later discover that maybe it isn’t. Your lack of direct information has hampered your ability to react making you at least 3 steps behind. Third, and most importantly, because you find yourself this far behind, you’re in a really bad position to work for a positive solution. Now you’re caught in a “just don’t break it” mode, which is like putting your issue on life support.

I talk and think a lot about intention. Intention is a funny thing. We can all intend to do something or be something and not meet the bar set by that intention. But despite our falling below expectations there was some effort. Working intentionally is different. It means you have thought, and talked, and worked and built a coalition to deliberately impact something in some way.

In this city, and across the country I see a lot of people with good intentions, but I don’t see enough people working intentionally, with a specific end in mind…at least not on my side of most issues. And that’s why I think we’ve been losing ground for so long. We haven’t been working intentionally as a group toward specific and tangible goals. Until those goals are defined and expressed to our government, from political leaders to low level government workers, the partnership will remain broken, and so will so much of what could be here in Memphis.

Ed. Note: I’ll have more on ways to get involved and informed in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.