Cognitive Dissonance and the Free ID Bill

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.

2 Replies to “Cognitive Dissonance and the Free ID Bill”

  1. I think we should ask the General Assembly to postpone implementation of this legislation until there is funding in place to provide “free” IDs for all who need them to vote & until all poll-workers & election administrators are educated on what is allowable & what is not. Seems like a reasonable request, don’t you think?

    1. I agree. I think the state should be required to notify all voters of the change in the law. Additionally, since the Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security has not published a copy of the affidavit that those seeking a “free” ID would have to sign, there lack of disclosure about what exactly is necessary to get one may make the process more opaque.

      The rules are contrived, to my way of thinking, and designed to cause problems. I’ll be going through the poll worker education process soon. I can’t wait to see how the rules are taught, and am concerned about those who have already gone through that training being confused about how to apply the new regulations.

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