Let’s start with the headline:
Oh, my! That certainly sounds terrible!
An Austin, Texas woman told msnbc she was threatened with jail time for having an out-of-state driver’s license when she went to apply for a voter identification card so she could vote under the state’s controversial ID law. She said she was so intimidated she left without getting the ID she needed — and which she’d been trying to get for a year.
Lynne Messinger’s account highlights the obstacles that some Texans face as they try to obtain a voter ID — despite the state’s assurances that getting one doesn’t pose a burden.
Anyone notice anything in there that seems like it might be problematic? Anything that makes you want to ask a question?
Messinger, 62 and a musician, said she brought her birth certificate to a Texas’ Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in south Austin Thursday in an effort to get a voter ID. She needs one because Texas’s strict ID law doesn’t accept out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Messinger said she spoke to a clerk at the desk, and explained that she had a California driver’s license. She has houses in both California and Texas and goes back and forth between the two, but decided several years ago to switch her voting residency to Texas.
The clerk left for a few minutes, then told her to take a seat. At that point, Messinger said, a state trooper summoned her into his back office, saying he needed to speak to her. Once inside his office, Messinger said the trooper insisted on seeing all the documentation she had brought, and demanded to know where she lives and pays taxes. He even told her she could be jailed for driving with a California license.* It is illegal to drive in Texas on another state’s driver’s license 90 days after moving into the state.
Didja notice the asterisk? It’s kinda important, but we’ll get back to it later.
“It was like a Nazi interrogation about how I cant be driving with a California ID,” Messinger said. “I was completely intimidated and freaked out.”
That must have been really intense. I’m picturing Raiders of the Last Ark, where the Gestapo agent is torturing Karen Allen.
The trooper denies threatening jail or arrest during the conversation, according to Summer Blackwell of the DPS. Blackwell said DPS was willing to reach out to Messinger to help her obtain a voter ID.
“I’m from New York originally, and talking to policemen was not like a big deal to me,” Messinger added. “This was scary as hell. There was nothing civil about the way he was talking to me.”
Messinger said she answered the trooper’s questions and eventually was allowed to leave. But by then she was so unnerved that she left without getting her ID, and now doesn’t plan to get one in time to vote.
“I’m well-traveled, I’m not easily intimidated,” she said. “This guy scared the hell out of me. I can just imagine what other people – a little housewife or a Latino or whatever walks in there and this happens to them …”
Adding insult to injury, Messinger said she’d been trying for over a year to get the documents she needed. She first went to a DPS office to get a voter ID last summer, but was turned away because she didn’t have a birth certificate. That led to a months-long process where she frequently spent hours uploading documents in an effort to get a birth certificate from New York, where she was born. Eventually she succeeded, only to be scared off at the DPS office.
Texas’s voter ID law was struck down earlier this month by a federal judge who ruled it racially discriminatory, but was reinstated for the election thanks to the Supreme Court. The difficulty of obtaining an ID was central to Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’s opinion. The state admitted at trial it had not conducted a public information campaign to publicize the existence of the state IDs it created for those without other photo identification, beyond issuing an English-only press release. At the end of August, the state said it had given out just 279 voter ID cards in the 14 months that it had been issuing them.
It’s like this: Texas passed a law that says you have to have an approved form of ID in order to vote. They want you to prove that you are both a citizen of the United States and a resident of Texas. They accept seven kinds of identification:
1. Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
2. Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
3. Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
4. Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
5. United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
6. United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
7. United States passport
I know it sounds completely ridiculous but for some bizarre reason Texas doesn’t want to accept a California drivers license as proof of Texas residency. Go figure.
But wait! There’s more!
Remember that asterisk?
*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that it was not illegal to drive in Texas with a California driver’s license. In fact, it is illegal to drive in Texas on another state’s driver license 90 days after moving into the state.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Lone Star State, the Texas Department of Public Safety includes their DMV, Highway Patrol and the legendary Texas Rangers. So when you walk into their DPS you are walking into a police station.
So here is this woman who comes into the Austin DPS office and she tells them she is a Texas resident and she wants a voter ID card. Then she presents them with a California drivers license but says she has been a resident of Texas for a couple years.
IOW – she just confessed to a crime.
So rather than embarrass her up at the front counter they ask her to come to the back where a trooper examines her paperwork and asks her a few relevant questions. He determines that she is indeed residing in Texas and has been doing so for over 90 days but is still driving on a out-of-state drivers license.
So he advises her that she needs to obtain a Texas drivers license or she will be in violation of the law. Then he lets her go. Some Nazi.
So I have a couple questions.
Why did it take her so long to get her birth certificate from New York? They have a website telling you what to do.
Why didn’t she just get a Texas drivers license?
Is she registered to vote in California?
If she has houses in two different states I’m guessing that lack of funds wasn’t the problem. Is it just me or does there seem to be something phony about this story? Like maybe someone was more interested in generating the story than actually obtaining a voter ID card?
In case you were wondering, she’s white. So no racism involved.
Last but not least, here is what the Progs are saying about this: