08 July 2006

The Joy of ID

So, this morning I was looking for ID to support yet another I-9, the form every employer is required, under current law, to complete for every employee and to compare to documents that prove identity and citizenship. The special session in Colorado, to a great extent seeks to impose variations on the I-9, from state government, for a variety of purposes, like voting.

This turned out to be less than straightforward.

I have a little fire safe in my home, but as it turns out, my current passport, which I used the last time I did this drill, had not been returned to its rightful spot, and as a result, proved hard to find as I rushed off to a 9 a.m. appointment.

So, on to Plan B. Plan B turned out to be less than straightforward. My birth certificate, my expired passports, and a social security card in my little safe all had my pre-marital name. This would be fine, except that I had removed the file with my marriage certificate in it, and it ended up in another part of my office under a hulking stack of files destined to be returned to file cabinets on the day that never seems to come when I have the time to do so.

Now, proving identity itself wasn't too hard. I drive a car and carry a driver's license, like about 85% of the adults in Colorado. But, proving citizenship was another story. . . . Ultimately, a braved a stack of papers, got lucky, and found my current Social Security card (which, strictly speaking, doesn't prove citizenship, even though it does prove eligibility to work). But, all told, the process was a good 45 minute venture on a busy morning also filled with troubleshooting my son's new model train set, providing guidance to my daughter on goldfish care, and discussing with my wife where we should take her parents for dinner this evening, while they are still in town.

If I had actually had to prove citizenship, and not merely eligiblity to work, I would have had to spend a couple more hours scouring the house looking for my current passport (it is actually recently expired, but still matches my current name), or my marriage certificate. If my in laws, in an sincere effort to help us tidy our home had, for example, seen my passport, seen that it was expired, and tossed it, and I continued to fail to locate my marriage license, I would have a problem. I'd have to find an address for the town clerk's office in Amherst, New York, where I got married, contact them to determine the proper procedure for obtaining a certified copy of the license, and then send them money and probably a form they would need to send me. Then, I would wait for them to send them to me. This could take weeks.

If a voter registration deadline was looming, I probably wouldn't even bother. Let's face it. Voting is basically a charitable act you engage in for the general good. It provides no immediate person benefit other than feeling good about yourself to the voter, in the vast majority of cases. Your vote, in particular, is rarely decisive.

Of course, discouraging people from voting is part of the voter identification agenda. Now, certainly, there are people who sincerely worry, in good faith, about ineligible voters going to the polls. But, the power brokers know better. They know that the very few ineligible voters vote, and that even slight bureaucratic impediments can discourage large numbers of legitimate voters from going to the polls. There is also a consensus belief that those most easily discouraged tend to be a combination of low income left leaning voters and of voters so apathic, that their impact is negligable since their votes are largely random.

Thus, Democrats, who have a disproportionate share of low income left leaning voters favor making it easier to vote, and Republicans routinely favor strict bureaucratic regulation of the voting process. The middle road is to make verification effortless, but that itself has looming policy implications that are beyond the scope of this post.

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