by Danny Hooley
Durham couple Bonnie Lacroix Huber and David S. Huber choose not to drive, for the most part. They prefer to ride bikes, including to work.
David is the owner of DSH Pipes. Bonnie is a cancer research analyst at Duke University. They moved to Durham from Chicago in 2014. And they want to vote.
But when they visited a Durham DMV office at 3825 South Roxboro Street on Wednesday to get valid IDs to vote under the new law, they found out that North Carolina citizens aren't the only ones in the dark when it comes to the law's provisions. Some DMV employees could use some brushing up, too.
In other words, they almost didn't get their IDs. And if they hadn't stuck around and insisted, we'd be two valid voters short in the next election.
Here’s David Huber’s entire Wednesday Facebook post about the experience. It's been shared more than 1,500 times:
Today, [Wednesday. March 2,] Bonnie LaCroix and I went to get our NC driver’s licenses so we would have“acceptable” forms of ID for the NC Primary. We both still have valid out of state driver’s licenses, so, since the NC voter ID law went into effect this year, this was absolutely necessary if we wanted to vote at all.
We rode our bikes to South Durham where the DMV that issues IDs is (yup, only one location to get a driver’s license, photo ID, or voter ID). We made sure to bring the forms of ID we’d need, Birth Certificate, W2 (SS#), proof of address, and our valid driver’s licenses.
Before we get into the meat here, it’s important to note a few quick details.
#1) We don’t own a car. We’ve been car free for nearly 5 years as a couple. I haven’t had car insurance since I was 23 when I sold my last car, but we still drive occasionally when we rent a car for a long trip or when we fly somewhere and need a way to get around. As a result, we need our driver’s licenses.
#2) We registered to vote when we moved to Durham and reregistered when we moved into our current apartment last June to make sure we had everything up to date. That’s about 210 days ago. Here’s why this is important (it’s the last item on the list): http://voterid.nc.gov/pdfs/voter-id-requirements.pdf
Into the DMV we went and, luckily, were the first in line to speak to the guy at the front desk. Bonnie spoke to him and when he asked, she showed him our documents and identification and told him that we were there to get our NC driver’s licenses. At that time, he asked us for proof of insurance. “We don’t have insurance. We don’t own a
car,” Bonnie said. “Then you can’t get a driver’s license,” was his response.
We were both flummoxed. Apparently, in order to hold a NC driver’s license you must have car insurance,
whether you own a car or not.
Bonnie asked if we could get voter IDs instead. “It’s illegal to have two IDs at the same time,” stated the gentleman behind the counter. “Could we just get a regular photo ID?” we asked. We were told that if we did that, we would have to go through all of the driving tests over again to get a NC driver’s license. “Ok…. So there’s no way
for us to get a voter ID just so we can vote?” we pressed. We were told that we could get a voter ID, but we would have to give up our driver’s licenses or commit perjury when we sign the affidavit stating that we had no other valid forms of ID.
That last sentence is really important. Just in case you didn’t read the pdf link from earlier in this post, it lists the acceptable forms of ID that can be used when you vote in this state. What we didn’t know and what he didn’t know is that the affidavit you sign states that you have no “acceptable” form of ID for voting in the state of NC, which we did not. As stated in the “NC Voter ID Requirements” when listing “Acceptable Photo ID in 2016”:
“Out-of-state driver’s license or non-operator’s identification card (BUT only if the voter registers to vote in the county within 90 days of the election)”
Since we had registered about 210 days before, our licenses were not acceptable and, therefore, were invalid for the purpose of voting, making us eligible for voter IDs without having to give up our driver’s licenses.
However, the gentleman behind the counter didn’t know that and neither did we.
So what did we do? First, we left the DMV and started talking about what we could do. Bonnie started doing research on her phone and I walked into the Car Insurance agency next door to the DMV (coincidence? I think not). It would have cost $85 to start the insurance policy and $37 a month per person after that for non-owner car insurance (that’s $973 a year, including the $85 starting fee, for NOT owning a car).
We decided that wasn’t really an option. The only other choices that we appeared to have were to A) Give up
our ability to drive legally in the United States so that we could vote or B) Perjure ourselves (according to the gentleman behind the counter) so we could vote.
Since neither option sounded very good, we decided to give up for the time being and come back later. We started to leave, but something made us decide to make one last try.
We went back into the DMV and I asked again about voter IDs. Same story, you can have one but you’d be
perjuring yourself. Right on time, Bonnie found the “Acceptable Forms of Voter ID” document online via her smart phone and spotted the rule that covered us. I was able to show it to the gentleman behind the counter, at which time he suggested that I speak to his supervisor.
His supervisor informed us that if we wanted a voter ID, we could have one. So we got back in line,
presented all of our identifying documents again (yes, they needed all the same documents for a voter ID that they needed for a driver’s license), got our number in line, and got our voter IDs (Legally, without perjuring ourselves).
I keep thinking about this. What if we hadn’t gone back in and tried again? What if the gentleman behind the counter had NOT suggested that we speak to his supervisor? What if someone else who wasn’t as insistent or persistent as I am had been in this situation?
What if we hadn’t had a smart phone?
I keep thinking about the answers: Bonnie and I wouldn’t be able to vote right now. Bonnie and I would have left again and not be able to vote right now. Someone less insistent or persistent would not be able to vote right now. We wouldn’t have found that one critical piece of information that turned the tide and we would not be able to vote right now.
And... I just feel completely convinced now. There’s just no question in my mind anymore. This is how voter ID laws cause voter suppression.
When reached by The INDY on Thursday, David Huber reiterated some of this concerns about the Voter ID law, and whether state employees are equipped to administer their duties properly, according to its rules..
“It didn’t feel like the guy at the front desk, or most of the people working there had a deep knowledge of the details that were involved in the policies," he said. "We also weren’t informed of the ‘reasonable impediment’ exception. Apparently, if you don’t own a car, you don’t have to have an ID. You have to fills out some form, and submit that with your vote.”
Huber says he didn’t find out about that part until the next day, from someone who saw his Facebook post.And even though he and Bonnie got the IDs he needed, he says he can easily imagine other outcomes.
“The only reason we got it is because we went back in,” he says. “If she hadn’t found that, we might not be able to vote right now.”
It makes him wonder how often something like this is happening, at DMV offices across the state.
“That’s the scariest part for me,” said Huber. “I’m a privileged white guy, presenting all of the right stuff, and I’ve still got to fight the guy at the front desk to be able to get ID to vote. I can’t even imagine – what if someone who couldn’t speak English very well had been in that situation? Somebody who was a person of color? Somebody from a poverty-stricken background who didn’t have access to any of the documents that you need?”
According to Huber, employees at the DMV were unwilling to share their full names with him. Still, he says that sharing his story with the public is more a matter of fixing problems than trying to bust specific employees.
"I never felt like anyone was being mean or anything,” he says. “They just didn’t have the information that was necessary. The thing that freaked me out the most is that I was led to believe my choices were to give up my ability drive if I wanted to vote, or perjure myself, if I wanted to vote. Those are the two options that I was given. That’s crazy.”
The INDY contacted the DMV office on South Roxboro Street, and was referred to DMV spokesperson Margaret Howell. We'll update this story when we hear back from her.
Meanwhile, how ,any of you remember this recent story of Voter ID confusion, at a DMV in Asheville?