Ever wonder about states’ rights and how they impact democracy in general?
This week, I had to get my driver’s license renewed. In some states, such as IL, you can obtain renewal online. But only if you (A) Don’t take any prescriptions that could affect your driving performance, (B) Can Afford the $31 Renewal fee, and (C) Under the age of 70.
In my case, caveat A required a doctor’s signature to declare that your health is fit enough to drive. I am not unhealthy, but I do have borderline issues that require a yearly and semi-annual check up. In between, I take medications, in which two of them have the potential to make me drowsy when I take them. But I don’t drive late at night, or if I have to drive late at night, I wait until I am in a bed and don’t have to be anywhere for 5 to 8 hours.
Because of these prescriptions, the state requires that the driver get signatures on the renewal form to verify they have minor conditions but are controlled. I had two appointments from my primary and specialist physicians, two weeks apart. Both signed the form. Then I went to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), take a number and wait for over an hour to hear my number called.
At the counter, the DMV employee looked at the form and as it turns out, while the doctors did sign it, date it, etc, there was a line before the various sections that also required a date. It was not filled out. Since my second appointment was with my primary doctor that morning, I asked if I could fill in that date or if the employee could. The answer was an emphatic “no, it would be considered forgery”, and marked “VOID” over the form. Luckily, the DMV had not pulled up my name on the computer, so I wasn’t blocked from getting a renewal, but I was a frustrated camper. Already, I had spent half a day and $40 to get these check-ups and signatures, plus the time to wait to get the DMV service that was going to cost me another $31 ($30 fee, +1 service fee for using a debit card–which is ridiculous because it’s the same as writing a check. I could understand for a regular credit card, but for a debit card, really?) I asked for another form, which the DMV employee handed over readily.
What was lucky for me is that both physicians worked on the same street and only 4 miles at best from the DMV. Also fortunate that both were in between with patient visits when I had to bring the form back and explain what happened to the support staff. I managed to get both signatures and dates in all of the necessary lines in less than an hour. I returned to get back in line, take a number, and wait again. That took another 20 minutes. Finally, I took a vision test, got my picture taken, had the appropriate paper work, including a recent utility bill with me, as I had to also make a change of address. (I moved some months ago, but we didn’t sell and have the closing on our house until a fortnight ago–that’s another story of process in itself). Then I had to look over another form the DMV employee had to fill out for the change of address to accompany my form, which included a signature that I had been informed that I was offered the right to register to vote. So I had to ask the employee, “I don’t recall being offered a right to re-register to vote. Did you?”
That delayed the service because she realized she had forgotten to ask. It was clear that most people are so annoyed having to wait that they probably don’t pay attention to the fine print or rote questions that require a Yes or No response. In comparison to the first DMV employee, this DMV employee was nice about it and she didn’t mind having to do the form over as she was aware that I had been to the establishment earlier from her colleague who had seen me. So I got registered to vote, which was great because then it saved me a trip to the County Clerk’s office, which was 6 miles away. I was sent to a cashier’s line, paid my fees and was told it could be up to two business weeks before I would receive it in the mail. They also gave me a photocopy of the one coming in the mail and a receipt in the event I didn’t get it in two weeks.
Now, I could have just gotten the doctors’ signatures and sent off the form if I didn’t have any additional changes. But can you imagine the quagmire I would be in to only have it rejected in the mail because it wasn’t appropriately dated in two places? But if I hadn’t had the personal leave time to do these activities in person, what about a person who doesn’t have vacation or personal time? With a rejection, they would have to start the process all over.
When I think about the recent SCOTUS ruling in favor of the state of OH for being able to purge the names of citizen’s names off the registration rolls due to inactivity, it creates ballot access issues. Or if a person has to show a photo ID to vote, which means you have to supply some kind of government ID. In my state, it costs $20 just to get a government ID (non-driving). But what about the poor and elderly person who may waive her rights to driving, but still has to have a photo ID to vote. Choose between medicine and voting?
Yes, I could have skipped all of the above and not report my prescriptions to obtain renewal for my DL. Probably a lot of people do. To them, it’s no one’s business. When it comes to owning a gun, I don’t have to report my health issues. Yet both require safety. State laws governing voting and other routine activities such as driving need not be so onerous though. I should have been allowed to fill in the dates that my doctors omitted on those two very overlooked places (although next to their signatures they did date and put professional license numbers). We shouldn’t have to charge elderly, non-driving people extra to obtain a government ID, let alone require general elections on the first Tuesday in November. Why aren’t DMV’s open all day on Saturday to accommodate those who work 9-5?
Moreover, Why don’t we have voting holidays? Democracy should be easier to participate. We should also have paper ballots as a back-up to machines that can be (and have been hacked) by elections officials.
But it’s not easy. The SCOTUS has made that clear states can make it challenging as it their right.
Brothers and Sisters, let’s get this solved. Bring back an ERA that includes voting. Demand it. Because we have a loony tune in the WH who wants to be like Kim Jon Un.
President Trump's effusive remarks about Kim Jong Un are just the latest example of his very troubling affinity for authoritarians. pic.twitter.com/RDodzMQv0W
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 14, 2018