Sunday, August 19, 2012

Identifying The Problem With I.D.s

Voter I.D. laws are very popular, quite suddenly, this election cycle. To hear some politicians speak about and defend the new laws and proposals, you would think that we have a rampant problem with fraudulent, in-person voting here in the United States, with tens of thousands of votes shaking the concept of fair elections to the core.

The reality is, there are 10 verified cases of voter fraud in the entire country, since 2000. So, less than one incidence per year, spread out over 50 states. But, still, pretty scary, right?

So, what's the harm in requiring people show a valid photo i.d.? Just seems logical, right? I mean, most of you reading this probably have a valid i.d. in your pocket, so everyone else probably does, too, as far as you're concerned.

But, what about people like 70-year old Vietnam vet Donald Birch? I found this picture and message on Facebook the other day:

Donald Birch and a State-issued birth certificate that the State refuses to accept. Ta-daaaa.

"70 year old husband told he could not use his birth certificate for ID in NJ MVD, because it did not have his middle name on it. He picked his middle name at confirmation to the church 63 years ago, but the MVD refuses Catholic documents. His DD214 form from Viet Nam era veteran contains his middle name, as does his social security card, our marriage license, lease etc. He can't show proof of who he is, and he has driven since age 16. This is a law, enacted by Gov Christie, and they want voter ID in Jersey. This is religeous discrimination, and for seniors a hugh problem, esp for seniors who picked their confirmation names at confirmation. We need to have all of you helping seniors get their ID's, drivers licenses etc. For women, it's even worse. It is costly to get all these documents as well."

Now, I am a former Catholic (after converting while engaged to a Catholic girl who didn't marry me - I am a very, very lapsed Catholic). I don't know what the rules for confirmation and middle names were back in the 1950s. But here is a man who, clearly, has earned the right to vote i every election we hold. He fought in Vietnam for you and your rights; he deserves the same.

I contacted Don and his wife, Edna, and invited them to come on my show. Here's the response I received from her:

"I am almost totally deaf from a MVA and so it's hard for me to be on your radio show.  You may however put my husband's picture and our story on your website.  FYI we are being featured in the annual ACLU NJ flier for this year because they have been fighting this law.

This has been hard because we have no proof who Don is without using his birth certificate. They removed his middle name frm his driver's license, but Nj requires six points, meaning he has to show six documents without a middle name.  Our marriage certificate, his DD214 from the Army, Viet Nam era, lease, car payment, car insurance, etc all have his middle initial or name on it, as does his social security card. So if they won't accept a catholic church confirmation notorized, I'm not sure how we can prove six points to get the license renewed.

This is a homeland security law from 2005, True ID that I never really heard of before. I don't know why it is being enacted,and Christie lied to us, saying you can't enter a federal building, or fly without this ID. THis is false, 23 states have opted out, meaning until all 50 states accept it, you will be able to enter a building or fly. 

I am 68 and disabled, I had to show every document for every name change and all had to carry the state seal where they originated and this cost alot of money.  I have been married twice, so I had to show my certificate of live birth, first marriage cert, divorce papers ( which they did not want to accept as they did not have my middle initial on it), my second marriage certificate, lease, utility bill etc. 

Even though we now have a Dem. legislature, legislation has been introduced for voter ID in NJ.  There will be millions of Catholics who will not have their middle name on their birth certificates because they chose that name at confirmation.

I have written to the US Bishops trying to get them interested in fighting this law, and also am hoping our ACLU flier gets national attention. 

What is ironic, in NJ they want to use the True ID law for 8 years, meaning a man or woman over 70 can get a driver's license for 8 years, with no eye test, no mental status test, physical ability to drive etc.  We have a 90 year old neighbor, who just got a 8 year license, does that make sense?  yet NJ is more interested in a man, whose 70 having his middle name on his birth certificate, then his ability to operate a motor vehicle.

I am trying to help people who are in states that have voter ID, to let them know they may run into a problem if their middle name is not on the birth certificate, or if the state refuses to accept church documents. 

This is taking away our freedom, and I don't care if your Independant, Democrat or Republican you should be concerned if you are a senior, trying to show an ID.  You certainly can discuss our case on your show, and also tell them about the website. The more we get the word out the better, and I have had alot of positive responses.

We need to get a grassroots action to help seniors get their ID's, but we also have to alert them to the fact that their state may not accept their confirmation or baptism, in addition to their birth certificate

Edna Birch
Carneys point, NJ"

There are other examples of stipulations and barriers being placed in the path of others trying to get their identifications so they can vote. If you follow this link to the Daily Kos, you'll see someone else's story of trying to get their free I.D. in Pennsylvania, with no success: Pennsylvania Voter I.D.

This is wrong. We should be encouraging people to vote, not discouraging them by giving them new hoops to jump through, by taking away online registration (again, Pennsylvania - which is one of the States that could be "up for grabs" this year). These are cheap, election-year ploys to prevent and discourage the elderly, the poor and minorities from getting out to vote.

This is - was - America. And I, as an American, am disgusted and outraged. If you are, too, spread the word. And vote. People like Don Birch fought so you had the right to do so.

Will you fight for him?

•   •   •   •   •

"Independent Thinking With Steve Gelder" airs on and, every weekday morning at 10AM Pacific, 1PM Eastern. Past episodes are available on iTunes and

Follow me on Twitter: @SteveGelder

"Follow, lead or get out of the way."
                        ~ Thomas Paine


  1. this is interesting... my common use name that is on my social security card for as long as i can remember is not the same as the name on my birth certificate, nor is it the same name i am using now after my first marriage, and i have since remarried but never went in to social security to change it... wow

  2. Saundra, if you intend to vote this year, or in the future (and I certainly hope you do), I'd make sure you have everything in order before you go to the polls and that you're in compliance with the current voting laws. Sad that Don is having such a hard time getting approval from the government when most of the forms he is presenting them with are their forms.

  3. This is absolutely the right way to keep church and state separate. If you wait till you are seven to pick a middle name, it now entails notifying the government of a legal name change. A church record is NOT a legal document, nor should it be. Social security should never have issued him a card with his "church" middle name on it without it also being on a LEGAL GOVERNMENT document. Which would mean he would need to get a new birth certificate issued with his name change. The fact that he got away with using an alias with other government departments for so long is a failing of the other government agencies. It is far too easy to steal identities, and I'm sure we should all be glad of the due diligence of government. This guy is just upset that he finally got caught using the legal equivalent of an alias. He has not LEGALLY changed his name with the government, only with his church.