Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Does a Four-Hour Wait to Get a Driver's License Sink the Voter ID Law?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 6:06 AM

Ill bet he didnt wait four hours.
  • I'll bet he didn't wait four hours.
Oooh, here's something interesting to watch. Over at the Tri-State Defender, Linda Wallace has a story about how she stood in line for four hours to get a driver's license the other day. As you recall, you now have to have a photo ID to vote in Tennessee.

As you can imagine, the thought that people have to stand in line for four hours one day to get to stand in line to vote on another day strikes some people as a ploy to dissuade people from bothering to vote. Steve Ross writes:

But that’s what Republicans want. They don’t want to fix government, they want to make it so difficult to interact with government that you lose hope and just sit down. When you do that, you lose, not them.

Make no mistake, it was designed to happen this way, and they’re making sure it does, to the detriment of the will of all the people.

I think what we need to keep an eye on, though, is this simple fact Wallace uncovers: The waits at all driver's license facilities are not close to being the same.

What’s disturbing is how widely the line lengths vary in Tennessee. (The correlation between an area’s racial makeup and the length of one’s wait also is worrisome.) In Chattanooga, the average wait time at the Cherokee Boulevard location is less than 19 minutes for services. The average wait time statewide is between 45 and 48 minutes, according to Driver Services Director Michael Hogan. (My wait time, in contrast, was just over 4 hours. That includes my time standing outside the building — time that the state does not include in its wait time calculations.)

Wallace wonders whether this violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and I think that's a good question. If you can show that poor people or minorities have to wait in long lines, but people with cars or in more affluent areas get to use facilities that have shorter line, and that the service centers aren't evenly distributed through population areas, meaning that a suburban facility might only have to serve a fraction of the people an urban facility faces, it seems like the state is making it harder for certain populations to fulfill the ID requirement of voting.

I'm curious to see what the Justice Department has to say about this.

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