State ID in hand at last, man can vote; others not so lucky
By Mark Taylor Post-Tribune correspondent September 8, 2012 11:28PM
Eugene Sim finally received his state-issued ID. Photo provided~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:37AM
The sixth time was the charm.
Eugene Sim, 62, a recently homeless man who tried in vain five times to obtain an Indiana identification card, finally succeeded on his last visit.
Sim is emblematic of a growing concern expressed by civil and voters’ rights organizations about difficulties in obtaining state-approved identification, identification they will be required to produce in November at the voting polls.
Indiana has one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country and has implemented even more rigid identification requirements since 2010. The American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and the League of Women Voters said they fear the voter ID laws will discourage voters not as determined or physically able as Sim, suppressing voting among poor and minority populations and potentially disenfranchising thousands of voters.
Since Sim doesn’t drive a car, he depends upon his Indiana identification card, which expired on his birthday in mid-August. His attempt to renew the card was denied by staff at the Hammond branch of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, who told him the homeless shelter address he used five years ago was no longer valid. I volunteered to let him use my address, then had to produce wads of specific identification over three more trips to the BMV before the agency would agree to issue the card.
After more bureaucratic imbroglios — none of which made America safer from voting fraud or terrorism, Sim finally received the voter registration acknowledgement and a change of address form from the U.S. Postal Service that persuaded the BMV office staff to give him the ID card from behind the counter.
“It shouldn’t have taken six trips to get this ID,” Sim said. “It seemed like they didn’t want me to get it, even though I did everything they asked me to. It seemed un-American.”
Sim wasn’t alone. While we waited for BMV staff, I heard neighboring customers struggle to produce the correct identification to receive driver’s licenses and state-sponsored identification cards. I saw them pull out Medicare cards and driver’s licenses, only to be told they need Social Security cards or other forms of identification. One man left in frustration, toting a bag of utility bills and mortgage payments. An older woman was nearly moved to tears as she was told her Medicare card wasn’t enough to prove she has a Social Security card, though she couldn’t have obtained the Medicare card without the Social Security card. “We need to see the Social Security card,” the BMV staffer told her.
In spite of his travails, Sim considered obtaining his ID card a small triumph.
“Oh yeah, I’m planning on voting,” he chuckled.