Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Day at the DMV

I wonder what they thought about when they voted yes.  I wonder if when the good governor of Texas signed the bill he had us in mind.  I wonder how many people won’t and can’t do what we just did.

We left the house at 1:15 p.m., it was 99 degrees, but that’s okay, the van has air conditioning.  Marty, Nikkie and I drove the 15 miles in about 20 minutes and parked in the shade in the last handicapped slot available.  

Nikkie and Marty went into the building and I quickly caught up as they stood in line.  Nikkie said, “This is not near as bad as I thought.”  It was 1:35.

We got to the first desk and I told the woman we needed to get Marty a photo ID, we needed to get Marty a photo ID so she could vote.  She looked at me, started looking at our documents and said, “Yeah, her driver’s license is expired”, so is her passport.

I charmed, Marty smiled, Nikkie supported and the woman at the DMV looked at us, gave us a special needs number, 955, and said have a seat, you only have one special needs ahead of you.  I said thanks.

We moved over to the chairs and looked for a way to move Marty and her chair into a spot where we would be out of the aisle.  There wasn’t one so we blocked the aisle and waited for them to call our number, 955.

I had spent about an hour that morning gathering supporting documents.  We had her expired driver’s license, an expired passport, a certified birth certificate (much like the President’s), a voter registration card (here’s irony, we used Marty’s voter registration card to get an ID to prove she had the “right” to vote), a Medicare card and a Medicare statement. 

I had also printed off the Texas ID application form and already completed it.  The special needs case in front of us had not done that.  The man’s wife stood at the wall and filled out all of the forms there.
We sat amidst all of the people with our forms and they had all had their own supporting documents.  There were bright and shiny young people waiting to take the requisite tests for their first driver’s license, there were people there trying to replace a lost license, several were there to get their commercial license and some there for the same reason we were there, to get an ID, maybe to vote.

We waited about 15 minutes and they called our number.  One of the few perks of being in a wheelchair and charming the front desk is we got to cut the line just a bit.  We moved ahead of some of the teeming masses.

We moved to document station where I laid out all of our documents and the young lady sitting there went over each of them, asked a couple of questions, asked for help a couple of times and moved us through the process.  She asked Marty to sign a couple of documents and swear that everything on her documents were true.  Marty signed and swore with a smirk because she knew she didn’t really know what I had written on the application.

In Texas, maybe everywhere, I don’t know, they now require fingerprints and thumb prints.  It’s a simple action, put your thumb and fingers on the device on the counter, the counter that is about head height if you are in a wheelchair, the device that required me to lift Marty’s right hand and thumb to the device and hold it there, without raising the arm so high or in such a way it hurt her fractured shoulder.  Nothing is simple in a wheelchair.  I explained she couldn’t use or move her left hand that high so the young lady with an assist from her supervisor just indicated on her computer that Marty didn’t have a left hand.

It took them a couple of shots to get just the right, “I’m a convict look”, photograph for the photo ID.  It took a while to download all of the prints, the data and the photograph and then print it all out and copy all of our supporting documents.  The young lady presented the temporary ID with the frightening photo to Marty for yet one more signature and then asked for $16.  Piece of cake.

Before we left I thanked the young lady for her patience and help and asked her if she had seen a lot of people come in for photo IDs because of the new Texas law.  She said she had seen, her words, a lot.  I asked her if they had been able to add any help to assist with the added work load.  She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and just kind of giggled.  

The three of us moved out to the van, Marty holding her new ID and all of our documents.  We rolled her on the lift and back into the van and backed out of the parking lot.  We pulled back into our driveway at 2:45, it was 102 degrees and the whole thing had been shorter and easier than I thought it would be.

When we pulled in I wondered again if this is what they wanted out of this new requirement for people to exercise their right to vote.  I wondered if they really understood that they were making life exponentially more difficult for many people who already had a hard enough time just living their life.  I wondered if they worried about how many older people and disabled people had someone to drive them to the DMV, or if they could find all of the documentation or afford the gas, the time or the $16.  

I don’t think so; I don’t think they wondered about that at all.  I suspect the people who really pushed this law assumed most wouldn’t go to the trouble.  I suspect the people who were really hot to trot to pass this piece of legislation just assumed Marty wouldn’t want to vote.  I guess they need to learn from Marty what I already know; she wants to participate in our life.  I wish they wouldn’t make it harder.

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