My birthday was earlier this month. Yay.
Also earlier this month was the first time I had to renew my driver’s license in person since surrendering my New Jersey license for a Texas license after I changed residency in 2006. Double yay.
Ali and I have lived at six different addresses, and with each move, we’ve been able to renew our driver’s licenses online which also extended the expiration date of our licenses. However, after our move to Austin last year, I was notified that was the last time I could renew online and would have to go back in after my next birthday to renew. Fine, that makes sense. They want updated information and a photo and fingerprints. Sure, we can talk about the police state and data harvesting of our government, but that’s not the point here so let’s put our (legitimate) tin foil hats away for a moment.
This post is about the almost eight hours over two business days of my life that I spent doing what should be a simple task.
These offices are only open weekdays during working hours wit one late night where they stay open until 6 pm.
All in, I spent about seven to eight hours gathering the needed documents, driving back and forth, waiting in line, and dealing with the renewal in a total of three trips to the DPS office over the span of two days before successfully renewing my license.
In those almost eight hours, I spent most of my time waiting in line – about four to five hours, followed by driving back and forth between the office and my house – about two hours.
But this post isn’t about me and my experience (mostly).
I have a comfortable job with the luxury of taking time away from my desk and projects over two consecutive days to deal with situations like this.
Millions of Americans don’t have the ability to take time away from their jobs to go deal with a task like this. This post is about them.
People who punch the clock for a living – people living paycheck to paycheck. Taking a day off of work, hell half a day off of work, is a big hit to their paycheck.
If those people happen to not have the proper documentation they’d have to go back, do it all over again, and miss more time from work. Away from earning money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table for their families.
Now, what if they didn’t have one of the required documents? Like a birth certificate? They’d need to take off even more time to go to the proper city office for that request, or try and do it online or through the mail if they moved away from where they were born which could take weeks which they could then run the risk of not having a valid drivers license.
If they are then they are pulled over they would then have to deal a ticket for driving with an expired license and have to go to court as well as pay fines while missing even more work.
Even scarier in today’s political climate – if you’re an immigrant or a minority and don’t have a valid ID? That opens a whole new can of worms which I can’t even begin to imagine. (That’s called white privilege, which definitely exists.)
There’s a political reason why these offices are not staffed to properly serve the communities they are in. Reasons why they are only open during normal working hours. It’s to make it harder for poorer, working-class people – especially minorities – to get identification and other crucial needs that ultimately slow them down or even stop them from voting.
That’s the biggest reason why I am against all of these voter ID laws that Republicans are always pushing and misconstruing – just get an ID, everyone can get one, it’s easy!
It’s not that easy if you need to take off from work for several hours if you don’t have all the proper paperwork, which you may not know until you’ve already wasted hours waiting in line.
Was I discriminated against? No, definitely not. Was I majorly inconvenienced? Definitely. It took me two trips and eight hours to renew my driver’s license.
Are thousands – millions – of people discriminated against every day? Most definitely, and it’s killing our democracy.
Featured image originally posted to Flickr on March 27, 2015.