Eugene Sim, who voted for the first time in his life Tuesday, with a sample ballot outside the Precinct 10 polling place at Munster's Carmelite Shrine. | Mark Taylor photo
Updated: November 6, 2012 11:23PM
MUNSTER - To say Eugene Sim was as giddy as a puppy would be an exaggeration.
Sim, 62, a recently homeless man, is not given to emotional outbursts.
But Sim didn’t want to miss this chance to participate in America’s democracy. So Tuesday he rode his bike to Munster to cast the very first vote of his life.
“You might say the BMV (Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles) made me vote,” said Sim, a tall, slow-talking man with a sly grin. “It’s our right as Americans and I felt they didn’t want me to do it. But they just made me madder.”
His very first vote was the culmination of a four-month journey.
In July Sim went to the BMV office in Hammond to renew his Indiana identification card. Because the homeless shelter he lived in five years ago had since closed, the BMV said he needed a new address and someone at that address to vouch for him. He made five trips to the license bureau before he was finally issued an ID card in September, a “frustrating and humiliating process” that he said fired up his stubborn German dander.
Indiana is one of 33 states with laws requiring voters to produce state-issued identification cards, even if those citizens had voted their entire lives. Many elderly, poor and disabled residents have trouble getting to the BMV offices or obtaining the specific documents required to receive the ID cards. Republican governors and legislatures passing the laws claim they were intended to reduce in-person voter fraud. Across the nation the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters and NAACP, even the U.S. Justice Department, challenged the laws, likening the onerous documentation requirements to Southern poll taxes that were intended to suppress the votes of poor, elderly and minorities, constituencies that often vote Democratic.
Sim said he originally sought to renew his Indiana ID card because he went on Social Security this year and is sometimes is stopped by police while riding his bike. Sim doesn’t own or drive a car anymore. But he was infuriated by the “hassling” from the BMV.
“They gave me reason to vote in this election because the Republicans were pushing these laws, so I guess that tells you who I voted for,” he chuckled. “I think I expressed my voice with my vote today. We’ll see what the election outcome is. If nothing improves, I might have to vote them out again in four years.”