Helping friend get ID card no simple task
By Mark Taylor Post-Tribune correspondent August 11, 2012 11:40PM
Eugene Sims of Hammond | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
How To Get your ID
Here is how to obtain a Secure ID driver’s license or Indiana ID card:
To vote in Indiana, Hoosiers must present a current Indiana driver’s license or identification card issued by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles at the polls.
To apply for a driver’s license or ID or vouch for someone who is applying, applicants must show an original or certified birth certificate or current U.S. Passport or Passport card, or certificate of citizenship or naturalization, if foreign born.
Applicants must also present two original documents with their name and Indiana residential address to establish Indiana residency. Those could include an Indiana handgun permit; first class mail from any state or federal court within 60 days of application; bank statement, utility or credit card bill within 60 days of application; survey of Indiana property; Indiana voter registration card or U.S. Postal Service change of address confirmation; property tax, excise tax or W-2 forms, along with Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid benefit statements.
To verify you have the correct documents before visiting a BMV branch, check the website www.myBMV.com or call customer service at (888) 692-6841.
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:03AM
A recently homeless friend of mine needed help.
The last time Eugene Sim obtained an Indiana identification card five years ago, he listed a homeless shelter as his contact address. That shelter no longer exists and he doesn’t live there anymore. I’ve let him use my Munster home as a mailing address when he needs to receive important mail.
The last time he applied for an Indiana ID in 2007, they snapped his photo and issued it immediately after he produced his birth certificate and Social Security card. That’s what he thought was going to happen this time.
Sim, who turns 62 in August, said he was trying to do the right thing and obtain his Indiana identification card in advance of its Aug. 15 expiration. In his world, identification is important. Homeless people are frequently questioned by police and he wanted his ID to be current. Since he doesn’t own a car or drive anymore, his Indiana ID card serves in lieu of a driver’s license and must be produced if he wants to vote, access government services or apply for Social Security.
While Sim is technically homeless, he has recently been living in the home of a mutual friend, performing property maintenance and repair jobs for the owner in place of rent. But it’s only a temporary living arrangement.
However, when Sim applied for his ID renewal, he was denied, even though he had a birth certificate, Social Security card and his current Indiana ID. The state required a mailing address. When he told me, I thought: no problem. He can list my address to receive mail. I drove him back to the local license bureau branch in Hammond to vouch for him. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
I brought my Indiana driver’s license and a wallet full of identification, including cards from my health and auto insurers, a voter’s registration card, credit cards and even a library card. But that wasn’t enough.
I was astonished.
They told me to bring back a valid unexpired U.S. passport, birth certificate and other documents to prove I’m a U.S. citizen, as well as at least two from a series of documents to validate that I am a Hoosier currently living at my address. Documents that would have qualified included a U.S. Postal Service change of address confirmation, which I didn’t have because I’ve lived in my home for 12 years. I couldn’t get my hands on the survey of my home, which also would have qualified. And my mortgage contract was in a safety deposit box.
A native Region Rat, I’ve lived in Northwest Indiana for the last 25 years and I’ve been a homeowner in Hammond and Munster nearly all of that time. I’ve paid my taxes and car, life and homeowner’s insurance, as well as my other bills. And in September, when I renewed my Indiana driver’s license, I only had to show my current license to replace the one that would have expired in July.
So I returned with a passport (my birth certificate is in that same bank safety deposit box) and my Lake County voter registration card. I’d forgotten to replace my auto insurance card, which expired last year and didn’t qualify. And the other identification I provided still didn’t satisfy the Indiana residential requirements the BMV demanded so I could vouch for my friend. I offered plenty of documents listing my address, mail I’d received, bills that had been paid. But some of them were in my wife’s name, though at the same address. And because most of our banking is done online, I couldn’t find a recent bank statement. I did find a few check stubs from newspapers and other publications that pay me as a freelance writer, but those didn’t qualify as paycheck stubs. Nor do I receive Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, which would have worked. I don’t own a handgun, but a valid gun permit also would have qualified as identification. It would have been easier for Eugene to obtain a gun permit than to get a state ID.
So I returned home yet again to seek more documents.
On my third visit (the fourth for Sim), I produced this year’s auto insurance card, which, along with my passport, driver’s license, voter’s registration card and a recent property tax statement, finally convinced the BMV staff that I was Mark Taylor and did live at my home address.
The BMV does post the document requirements on its website, but not all Hoosiers have computers or Internet access. And in fairness, their Hammond staff handed me a sheet listing the many documents that would have qualified as identification, so some of the errors of omission were mine. But I’d never heard about these changes before, despite a state official’s claims of big media publicity campaigns.
The week prior my wife and I had returned from a visit to Russia to see our daughter, who is teaching there. My U.S. Passport got me onto planes and into banks and past border crossings, but it wasn’t enough to convince state officials in my neighborhood that I live where I claim to live.
Sim said the Kafkaesque experience made him feel like he was living in an authoritarian state, not the America he remembered. He wondered why all of the documents I produced were not sufficient to identify me. It was not only a colossal waste of our time, but also frustrating and insulting. Neither of us, both Americans from birth, were pulling a fast one or attempting identity theft.
What if I didn’t own a car or a house to validate my identity? And would I have made that many trips on foot, since our regional transit system is dead?
Probably not. Then I remembered: Indiana is one of 33 states that passed laws requiring voters to provide photo IDs in order to vote. If obtaining identification can be made as painful, irritating and time-consuming as possible, some people might just give up and in doing so, surrender their right to vote. Is that why Eugene Sim was challenged? How many other poor Hoosiers, lacking my transportation and documents, are denied identification cards because of these rigid requirements? How many won’t be voting or will be disqualified at the polls in November when they fail to produce the appropriate IDs?
How many other Eugene Sims are there?
Dennis Rosebrough, deputy commissioner for external affairs for the Indiana BMV, said the state’s voter ID law played no role in the Secure ID program requiring more documentation.
Rosebrough said the genesis for Secure ID was a report from the 9/11 Commission that found that 16 of the terrorists who hijacked plans possessed fraudulent driver’s licenses. He said Homeland Security mandated the tougher identification restrictions, which Indiana has adopted.
“More and more states are becoming compliant with those regulations. We are complying with what the federal law says. This has nothing to do with the Indiana Voter ID act. Nothing at all. There is no relevance between the two.”
He said of the 5,485,225 Hoosiers issued identification by the BMV, 698,890 have Indiana identification cards, while the remainder hold driver’s licenses. Rosebrough said he didn’t know the ethnicity, average age or economic status of those holding Indiana ID cards.
Asked whether poor Hoosiers like Sim might feel hassled and inconvenienced by the documentation requirements, Rosebrough responded: “I have no opinion on that.”
Sim, however, did. “I have no living parents. I don’t know where my brother is. I turned to my best friend to help and felt like they (the BMV staff) were harassing me,” he said. “You try to do things right and legally and they just wear you down.”
Sim, a high school dropout who has managed a 7-Eleven convenience store in Dallas and was a foreman for a fiberglass boat manufacturer, said he’s ashamed to admit that he’s never voted in his life.
“But I’m going to vote now,” he vowed.