WHAT? Bank Activity Required for a Wisconsin Voter ID Card?
H/T to Raw Story for the video. This story was first published over at Daily Kos and at BradBlog. :
It is a shame the video is not edited more briskly — at almost ten minutes in length its viral spread will certainly be thwarted — but it nonetheless lends itself to breath-holding drama because of this fact.
The first station clerk determines that the boy’s bank account does not display enough “activity” to constitute a proof of address form. This is not only absurd (“does he use it?”) but a clear privacy infringement as is the follow up question of whether or not the account is of the “checking” or “savings” variety. “Oh, it’s just a savings,” the clerk remarks. The mother throws a subtle jab, countering that “he’s unemployed.”
Good one, mom.
The mother-son hidden camera team manages to satisfy the bank account busting first clerk and eventually makes it to the third clerk where they discover that unless you explicitly specify that you have come to the DMV for a Voter ID, you will be charged $28. The clerk admits that there is no difference between the Voter ID and the non-Voter ID — they’re literally the same physical object — but that it’s the policy of the establishment to leave the onus for making this distinction on the customer: no signs, no warnings, just a box on the form you have to hope you notice and check.
The mother asks for the clerk’s superior who is somewhat helpful. She then asks for the superior’s superior which we can assume the mother gave hell to when the camera was off.
Now, this is a white mom and son. She’s deliberately recording this transaction for her own information, and not even showing her or her son’s face or that of the DMV reps. Now, imagine if this is happening in Milwaukee, Atlanta, or New York. Imagine if this was a black or Latino mom helping to get her son and daughter a voter ID card. Or rather, a black son or daughter trying to get a card for their aging mom or dad for the first time. Rikyrah at Jack and Jill Politics has an angle on this story about Jim Crow roaring back with a vengeance.
In South Carolina, especially among the aging and elderly black population who fought against the poll taxes and grandfather clauses and the like to suppress the black vote, if they cannot produce a birth certificate, they cannot vote. These older voters often vote Democratic, while white Southerners are now Republicans. Many of them were not born in hospitals, not even segregated ones, that would require the doctor to fill out a certificate of vital statistics. Instead, they were “born in the bed,” meaning that they were born at home in the large bed where everyone in the family slept in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and often without even a midwife. Since the state instituted its own voter ID/voter suppression bill, it has become evident that without papers, without a certificates (and they cannot use family bibles where births are recorded by hand, it has to be legal), they cannot vote. And there is no civil rights organization for them. From The State:
And a birth certificate is considered the “seed document” for establishing one’s identity, making it more important to own — and protect — than in years past, said Adam Myrick, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, which oversees the state’s vital-records division.
No one knows how many South Carolinians don’t have a birth certificate. One indicator may be a tally by the S.C. Election Commission, which shows 178,175 voters do not own a photo ID, according to the latest available figures.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a law requiring voters to show a photo ID — either a driver’s license, passport, military ID, new voter registration card or a state-issued ID.
But getting a state-issued ID requires a birth certificate.
For those who don’t have a birth certificate, the state’s vital-records division requires at least three documents from a list that includes marriage and school records, military and medical records, the birth certificates of siblings and children and voter registration documents.
But there’s a hitch.
The name must be identical on each document used as proof of identification: no nicknames, middle initials or other variations.
“The law is very specific: The name has to be the same,” said DHEC spokesman Thom Berry. “This is not a South Carolina issue; this is a national issue.”
One of the biggest areas of fraud in the country, Berry said, is illegally obtaining a birth certificate.
Berry said DHEC averages about 80 requests a month for delayed birth certificates.
The number spiked after 9/11, when more organizations began requiring birth certificates as positive proof of identification, he said. It has since declined.
The agency responded to 1,488 requests for delayed birth documents in 2005, for example, compared to 960 last year.
“For someone with no birth certificate at all,” he said, “it’s usually going to require a judge’s court order.”
But whether people attempt to gather their own historical documents or hire a lawyer to sort through the matter, it’s a potentially costly and time-consuming process.
Folks do not always have that kind of money to be going back and forth to the courts, in effect, to legalize their existence as American citizens. And what if the judges are prejudiced against blacks obtaining these papers, and turn them down? The Republicans (and their right-wing foundations and think-tanks) who put together these voter ID bills counted on this and other facts in their attempts to suppress the black vote.
My own grandmother, who is no longer alive, had to go to the Census in order to qualify for Social Security. I found her Census certificate among her papers. It noted who her father and mother were, and her older brother, and all their ages and where they were located in 1910. And of course, my grandmother was also born in the bed. It is the only legal document that proves when she was born, as the census taker wrote that she was 10 years old. It proved her existence as an American citizen, but at the time that she asked for this certificate, she could not vote in Louisiana. She died at the age of 66, unable to receive Social Security at her husband’s death at 60, and barely able to receive a whole year of benefits, if she ever did, as a retired domestic worker.
Such is the state of affairs among voters as the 2012 election season revs up. Even if President Obama wins reelection, Republican-sponsored voter suppression bills will disenfranchise millions of young, student, elderly, unemployed, homeless, and black and other minority voters. Even those lower class men and women who vote Republican against their own interests might find themselves disenfranchised in some cases because they possess no state ID, much less know where their birth certificates are, and even to find them might cost them on their small salaries. The Republican Party and its white and Southern supporters are trying to ensure their supremacy over the nation for decades to come, and even in states like Wisconsin where, as I have said before, the South has come north.