I was encouraged to diary this in Denise Oliver's FP article today about the Raleigh Moral March she attended last week. So here it is...
I am one of the people - description: likely or known Democratic voters - considered as part of the minorities of general description for whom obtaining a state or federal picture ID is a problem. I am certainly not alone in being caught up in this ridiculous Teabagger disenfranchisement effort, so I hope that readers will begin to understand how this type of legislation impacts real people on the ground (so to speak).
A little background here is required. I wasn't born in the US of A. My father was a Naval officer, then assigned as Planning Officer (Pacific Fleet) in 1951. There was a war going on in the Pacific at the time, on the Korean Penninsula. Dad and Mom were living on the Subic Bay base, I was born in Olongapo. Outside the base perimeter at the time, so Philippine soil. My parents did the standard paperwork to get an FS-240 from the State Department, the official Record of Birth of an American citizen born abroad. Just so you know, Dad was born in Cincinnatti, Ohio, Mom was born in Miami, Florida. Scots-Irish and French/Scandinavian both ways. I am not Filipino, or even half, bear no resemblance.
Anyway, Dad got the FS-240 and attached (now yellowed and fragile) legal attestation from the Commander, Pacific Fleet. The family (parents and older sister) moved back to the states proper when I was 9 months old. My brother was born later that year in Monterey, California. Two younger sisters born in Maryland (Bethesda Naval Hospital) and New York over the following years. I'm the only one who made an initial appearance in St. Elsewhere. And the only one having trouble with legally demonstrating who I am so (after all these years) I will be allowed to vote.
My problem arises from my Philippine Amah, the nursemaid my parents hired to take care of me as an infant. She didn't speak much English, but was dedicated, and called me "Joy." It stuck like glue, was the only name my siblings knew, so when it came time for my parents to enroll me in school in the US, that name was included - the name I was known as and answered to. They included my legal names too, but my problem now comes from the government's refusal under the so-called PATRIOT Act (as amended in 2006) to recognize school records as legal ID. Suddenly, at the grand old age of 55, "Joy" could no longer be my name.
Not that I used it much. Always handy to being able to quickly sort junk/official mail from real friend/family mail. When we moved here to western North Carolina in 1992 after our son and business partner died, I used only my legal-legal names - first name as appears, maiden name as it appears, and married name as it appears. Never used the middle name anyway. All of which (from nicks to married to divorced names women these days have to struggle with for ID purposes) are indeed my honest-to-legal names. Just left out a few.
After 2006, which happened to be the year I had to renew my NC driver's license, I officially became - as echoed by ALL government flunkies I dealt with on ALL levels state and federal - "non-existent." I kid you not, that is what I was told so often it was all I could do to remain calm. "You Do Not Exist" they told me. Positively designed to piss me off (and it does, every time).
I have an entire file folder chock full of every identification anybody could ever want. Birth and citizenship documentation, school records 1st grade through college, previous drivers licenses/military IDs, medical and dental records, adoption papers (we adopted since we've been here), etc., etc. I've carried it from place to place for years, trying hard to get someone to help me with the 'system' so I could still be the perfectly legal US citizen and taxpayer and property owner I've always been. No such luck. Appealed to Heath Shuler when he was our erstwhile representative, his local chief of staff wouldn't answer my phone calls. I even hired a lawyer who wanted cash up front to have my name legally changed. It got as far as the Court Clerk, who laughed heartily when he saw the documentation. Why on earth would anyone need to have their name changed to their already-legal name? Just pick the ones you want from the list, and the gub'ment agents should have to comply. Right? Well, THEY obviously thought so. That cost me more than a thousand dollars I didn't have to blow. No resolution.
So I filed for 'early' Social Security last year, when I turned 62. I haven't been able to work outside the home since 2006 and the PATRIOT Act garbage, so might as well get my $325 a month now. I took the chock-full file folder down to the SS office in our nearest city (~35 miles from home) and waited. When finally called upon and showing all the ID-worthy stuff, they refused to grant me the insurance payments I've been paying into since I was 15, because those names don't match my 'legal' names I've been registered under for all the years we've lived here.
Now, it's not like SS or its affiliates at IRS care what name is attached to any pay-in from any job or that year's tax return. I've used several combos in my time. It all goes to the same place, because it's the number and not the name that counts. Anyway, I had to file an "Administrative Appeal" to some office in Kansas or Missouri or some such godforsaken place.
See, when I obtained my SS card/account at the age of 15, I did not have a copy of my FS-240 and affadavit. My parents were divorced. So I used my school records - from 1st grade through Junior High - as ID to get it done. That included "Joy" as well as the other names, I'd chosen "Joy" on purpose for the first name on the account/card because that's all anybody knows me as, and was on my bank account and driver's license (learner permit at the time) and everything else. Back in 1967 school records were fine as ID for such official purposes. As a Navy wife, the succession of combos of names have changed. The SS number never did.
Anyway, I won the appeal and have gotten my $325 every month since. What I didn't do was insist at that point that SS change the name on my account to the otherwise 'legal' names I've been using here for 22 years. I foolishly figured that if the federal government was all good with the names I have on my SS account (compared to my several other names not in use now but were), then I could convince them to change my name accordingly on state ID/driver's license, voter registration, etc., and now allow me to be party to the Credit Union account we got a few years ago in protest of our too big to fail bank. You can't do that either these days unless your names all match SS card, not an official form of ID. ARGH times ARGH!!!
State DMV told me in no uncertain "You Do Not Exist" terms that I have to have the SS card/account changed to reflect my choices locally. Which have been dutifully on file for 22 years. That means I have to arrange a day off ride to town and hours of waiting/dealing with the bureaucrats, hope to get it done in that visit/amount of time, and even then the change is going to interfere with my SS payments for a period of months before it comes out in the wash and I can get on the CU account for direct deposit. SS has told me I must, but I can't if they won't change the name. PATRIOT my ass...
I indeed do plan to have it all worked out well ahead of the 2016 elections, when it will actually matter at the polls here in NC. But I am not the only person who is having or will have trouble getting a duly certified NC state or federal (like passport) ID. Women have traditionally used whatever 'legal' names they owned, in any order they liked, as their 'official' identifications. I still have a Congressional Club Cookbook on the shelf that was my mother's from when Dad was at the Pentagon. It's got a whole intro section on greeting and seating arrangements for who goes where according to 'rank'. The greeting cards always used to be "Mrs. Joe Blow" without even a first name by which you could know the woman. Our identities were bound specifically to the guy we married. What then in divorce when you didn't used to have your name legally changed, you could just 'revert' to your maiden? It's way more common these days. So are powerful women who are themselves members of Congress or SCOTUS judges or cabinet members or such. We have our own names. We should be able to pick the ones we're known by, and the government should have to comply. NOT the other way around!
So anyway, this is my tale of identity hardship. If you went looking, you'd be able to find many more if you can assure people they won't be stigmatized for it. No matter what the embarrassment of obstacles our states and federal governments put in front of us to disenfranchise us, we have to jump those hurdles. If we don't, then they can remove our rights wholesale.