Last week I mentioned how the cost of obtaining a driver license may make requiring a photo ID to vote unconstitutional. Sunday, a neighbor from Wilmot gave me a ring and reinforced my concerns by pointing out how hard it is to get the most common photo ID, a driver license, here in South Dakota... at least for actual residents of the state.
At the end of 2009, with hardly a peep from our purportedly liberty-conscious Republicans and Tea drinkers, South Dakota imposed new identification requirements for folks seeking the simple privilege of driving a car. My Wilmot correspondent ran into these requirements this year when he went to renew his driver license. He brought what he thought would be sufficient to prove his identity: birth certificate, Social Security card, and two utility bills showing his name and address. But the license examiner turned him away. His birth certificate, the same document he'd used to get his Social Security card, wasn't enough for the State of South Dakota. It was a mere hospital birth certificate; state law demands a certified birth cetificate issued by the state or county.
My friend thus had to drive to the next county, where he was born, shell out $26 at the courthouse for a birth certificate with a government stamp, and return to wade through the license renewal line again. Sounds like a pretty taxing experience on a long-time resident whom any number of employees in the courthouse could probably look at and say, "Oh, yeah, I know him! He's who he says he is. Give him his license!"
Shortly after this Republican-imposed runaround, my fellow South Dakotan met some nice people from Indiana who were coming here not to enjoy the rich South Dakota culture and quality of life but simply to dodge taxes. They're RVers and spend at least part of the year traveling the country. They were setting up their permanent "residence" in South Dakota through my Madison neighbor Jon Knuths's business, MyDakotaAddress. Their presence in South Dakota will consist of a mailbox at 110 East Center Street in Madison and a few instances of their names and data scattered across some databases.
These Indianians needed to get South Dakota driver licenses. My Wilmot friend chuckled and warned them how complicated it would be. They told him their new friend at MyDakotaAddress.com had assured them it would be no sweat. The Indianians had passports and Social Security cards. But what about address documents? As RVers, they have no utility bills or mortgage statements. My Wilmot friend was sure the Indianians were out of luck.
Oh no, said the Indianians, we've got that licked. They showed him their motel bill. Camp at Motel 6 or KOA for one night, keep that receipt, hand it to the driver license examiner with a Residency Affidavit, and you're not just good, you're South Dakotan.
My Wilmot friend felt a little put out. He felt these Indianians and the thousands of other RVers declaring South Dakota as their tax haven are getting one more break that we locals don't. It's one thing to roll out hospitality for our out-of-state guests. But if the whole point of these license ID requirements is security, we seem to have things backwards. From a homeland security perspective, one would think we would impose more requirements, not fewer, on itinerants whom we've never seen before who come to our state asking for an official photo ID.
Apparently, as my Wilmot friend discovered, South Dakota is less interested in rigorous ID requirements for strangers than in protecting the financial interests of a niche mailbox industry.
Now my Wilmot friend got me wondering about some other possible impacts of these RV-mailbox businesses on South Dakota... but that's another post. Stay tuned!