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Bonnie’s Trip to the DMV

Last week, I tagged along while my wife took her mom, Bonnie, to the DMV so she could get a photo on her valid driver’s license. Sixteen states have recently enacted restrictive voting laws, and Tennessee is doing its part by requiring most people (although there are exceptions, which I’ll mention later) to have a photo license to vote. While it may not sound like a big deal; it was a very big deal for Bonnie. She has fought back from two strokes in three years and suffers from high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Never-the-less, she was determined to make the trek in order to exercise her right to vote.

Arriving at the DMV, we quickly got a number; then sat down to wait… and wait. After an hour, Bonnie was getting weak and, even though she wouldn’t admit it; her back was hurting. We finally figured out that you can go a kiosk to get processed for a new license. You need to be pretty handy with touch screens to navigate through the IPads, and my wife and I got stuck on one question and had to ask for assistance. After filling out multiple pages and paying an $8.00 fee with a credit card, we rejoined Bonnie in the waiting area. In just a few minutes, Bonnie was called up to the desk to have her picture taken and issued a new “photo” license.

While Bonnie is a courageous woman, she physically wouldn’t have been able to wait for multiple hours at the DMV, and she certainly wouldn’t have been able to submit her request through the kiosk (all while standing up). So, without help, Bonnie would not have been able to get her photo identification, which means her right to vote would have effectively been taken away. I don’t know how many more “Bonnies” are out there. Tragically, there are many who don’t have someone to take them to get a photo ID, or may not be able to wait for hours at the DMV, or have an extra $8.00.

I could understand this inconvenience if Tennessee was having a problem with voter ID fraud. However, at most, there have only been a couple of isolated cases. The major fraud this year involved a RNC consulting group that dropped off fake voter registrations in Florida; and this law wouldn’t prevent that. No, this law has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with suppressing the vote of minorities and the poor, groups that often vote Democrat. Because hunters tend to vote Republican, this carefully crafted law allows an expired hunting license from another state (with no photo) to serve as an ID. But not Bonnie’s valid Tennessee driver’s license.

Senior citizens may have been the unintended victims of this blatantly political legislation. But, like so many other minority groups who are least able to defend themselves, they are suffering the consequences. Not only is this bad legislature, it’s immoral, and Republican lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves for playing politics with democracy. I can only hope that others affected by this law will show the same determination Bonnie did, and fight for their right to vote. And while I don’t know who Bonnie will vote for, I have a feeling she will remember who made her make an unnecessary trip to the DMV.

This article was printed in the Tennessean and the OpEd News.


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7 Responses to “Bonnie’s Trip to the DMV”

  1. Karen Langford says:

    After receiving a hate-filled, bigoted, and ignorant political Facebook message this morning from a “friend,” I have been trying to catch my breath. (I de-friended her.) Politics these past few years have gone way beyond ridiculousness. We are becoming a joke to the world because of republican nonsense, and that is so very sad. What’s sadder is that people are believing whatever anyone is telling them even though it is outright lying. What republicans have been doing is despicable.

    I do not claim a party, so I am not prejudiced against republicans in and of itself. It’s the hate, bigotry, and lying that I am seeing so much of that really saddens me. It has caused so much discord in our country. Do we really need another national disaster to remind us that we are Americans and that we really are brothers and sisters in this great country of ours? I hate to say it, and I would hate to see it, but that may be the only thing that will bring us together once again. Like 9/11 did. Like Katrina did.

    Thank you for your great articles, Jeff! Keep speaking the truth!

  2. Susan Scott says:

    Wow! Where and when will all of this stop? I am a born-again Christian who removed herself from the Republican Party when Jesse Helms was controling North Carolina. I have never seen such a dirty politician in action – all the while claiming God on his side. It sickened me just as much then as it does today. Now I live in central Alabama in the heart of a bright red state. I choose to keep my views to myself – or a limited subset of friends – due to the irrational, fanatic, “Anything the Republican Party tells me is the absolute truth and anything anyone on the other side does is evil,” people around me. Until we Americans, as a unit, begin to think for ourselves and quit allowing others to tell us how to think, our situation will not improve. Here in Alabama, that kind of thinking will be a long time coming. As a friend of mine once said, “He’s trying to get us to open our minds, and we don’t want our minds opened. “

    • Jeff says:

      Hey Karen and Susan, thanks for your comments. Yeah, it is frustrating when people just repeat what they’ve heard over and over again – and accept it as undeniable fact. Maybe it’s all the campaign rhetoric or the political pundits, but it seems like people are more whipped up than ever right now. I’ve had to listen to some rather intense (anti-government, anti-Obama) diatribes lately. For the most part, I’ve chosen to just listen. There’s a point where I’ll challenge them, although I’m not sure that does much good either. My challenge is to not let them upset me – and it’s not always easy.

  3. Gayle Lin says:

    Thank you for this.
    It’s almost this much trouble for me to go anywhere.
    Too many young people, who roll their eyes and say there’s no big deal to getting a photo ID,
    are seeing just through their own lenses.
    They claim to be compassionate people, and I think some of them really are, but they have
    to have the bare facts exposed to them before the compassion kicks in.
    Why do they always assume the worst and act as though only criminals would be without the
    needed documents?
    Has our government taught us to be leery of the person next to us? Or has organized religion done this?
    Until we have peace in our hearts toward our fellowman, this country will be in trouble.

  4. chester marx says:

    You know, I’ve been going to the DMV since I got my DL and it always has been a shining example of government bureaucracy gone bad. Many Thanks for the compassionate and enlightening video.

  5. Kevin McCann says:

    There is a reason for requiring voter ID’s: voter fraud. The majority of Tennessee voters have a driver’s license with a photo, which meets the ID requirement. Based on the contents of your op-ed piece and your blog, it seems you have a predetermined political agenda in mind and are using your mother-in-law for sympathy to promote it. I would consider THAT to be immoral.

    • Jeff says:

      Kevin, I know that “voter fraud” is the reason Republicans give… but where are the cases of voter fraud? Before you read right over that question, please stop and do a little objective research on your own. I think you’ll find that there are very few cases. With all the very real problems we are facing, our representatives surely have bigger problems to deal with than voter fraud.

      The real problem (for Republicans) is that certain demographics tend to vote Democrat (i.e. younger voters, minorities) and this is a blatant attempt to tamp down that vote by making it a little harder for them to exercise their rights as Americans. Making it tougher for anyone (Republican or Democrat, young or old, rich or poor) to participate in our election system is, in my opinion, undemocratic and, yes, immoral.

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I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration.

- Jeff Fulmer