Retro Blog: Dealing and dueling with the DMV


I recently got a letter from the state Department of Transportation informing me that my driver’s license was about to expire and did I want to renew it by mail.

The letter went on to inform me that renewing by mail is a very simple process and all I had to do was send them the documents from the enclosed list.

The list was not short.

Apparently federal and state law now requires:

1. Verification of identity. These screwballs sent me the letter informing me of my license’s impending invalidity. I think just getting this letter and actually having said license to a large extent proves you are who they just said you are.

Alas, no.

You are required to have at least one (1) of the following (just the U.S. citizen category): a state-certified birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport, consular report of birth abroad, certificate of citizenship or a certificate of naturalization.

2. Verification of residency: They know where you live … they sent you a letter there didn’t they? They want proof of where you live though, and a picture of you standing outside your house won’t cut it.

They want two (2) of the following: Wyoming vehicle title or registration, residential lease agreement, rent receipt, utility bill, property tax assessment, proof of Wyoming voter registration, pay stub or a Wyoming hunting or fishing license.

To obtain most of these documents you had to show the driver’s license that is now on its deathbed (the one they no longer trust to prove you are who it says you are). By the way, Wyoming doesn’t even send out a voter registration card. You can get your proof of voter registration by going to your county courthouse and showing them your soon-to-be defunct driver’s license and requesting said proof.

I could easily fake the rest were I so inclined. I am sure somebody really motivated could too.

3. Verification of Social Security number (SSN): I dislike giving my social security number to anybody since I found out the U.S. Government accounting office in 2006 pointed out the identity theft risk posed by SSNs in public records.

But since they really want it you will need one (1) of: Social security card, a W-2 form, a bank statement that includes your full SSN or any official or government document that includes your name and full SSN.

Since the President’s Identity Theft Task Force Report in 2008 and the Social Security Number Protection Act of 2010 you can’t find much with your full number on it any more. This really limits you to a card or a W-2.

I have not had a social security card since I had my wallet stolen more than 10 years ago. But guess what form of identification they want to replace your card? You guessed it. Your imminently obsolete license can still get you on your way to a social security card.

I think you can see that all of this “safety” crap only gives the illusion of security while inconveniencing the vast majority of our law-abiding citizens. The days when you could walk in, hold up your license and say “This is me and I want another license, please.” were much nicer.

Since I really did not want to be mailing around birth certificates, passports, W-2s or the like, I decided to give our local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Rawlins a go. I have found that DMVs in Wyoming are pretty easy to deal with. In Texas, where I got my first license, I stood in line until my soul had been sucked dry (I think they use soul-suckage to laminate licenses). Here, there was only one other person ahead of me.

I sat down with my sheaf of documents and started work on the form they require for a new card. Halfway through with this I realize that, while I have remembered all the documents I need, I have no cash and have left my checkbook at home 40-some-odd miles away.

I ask the lady, now waiting on me, how much the new license would cost and would they take credit cards?

The answers were: “$15” and, predictably, “no”.

After explaining my predicament, the clerk asked me where I banked. When we figured out there was a branch in town, I ran down there and filled out a teller’s check. I explained to the teller that I did not have my bank account number with me but that I was renewing my license down at the DMV and I had plenty of identification with me.

The teller sympathized with me being at the DMV, looked up my account number and got me my money.

I made it back to the DMV where a few other patrons had gathered.

Nicely enough, the clerk finished with the person in front of her and called me back to the desk since I had already been there.

I dumped my pile of papers and paperwork in front of her and gave her the cash when she asked for it.

Then she asked for my driver’s license.

I had deliberately left it in the car since it was the one document NOT specifically asked for in the list of stuff you need to renew your license. I left it there because the DMV has this nasty habit of poking holes through your old license that form the word “VOID”. She politely explained that it was just “common sense” that I “surrender” my old license to get a new one.

I was going to argue that the letter of the law usually has very little to do with common sense but decided just to give the argument up.

I did, however, explain to her that the reason I don’t want holes poked in my old license is that I like to put my old permit in my luggage when I fly so if my wallet gets lost or stolen I still have photo ID to get on my return flight.

She seemed horrified and told me I couldn’t have two valid driver’s licenses. I mumbled back something like “I wouldn’t” while she punched her “VOID” in my innocent old friend.

Maybe now the Post Office, knowing all the crap we go through to get our licenses, will just let us show our licenses to get our post office boxes renewed instead of making us gather another pile of paperwork.

Then again, maybe not.


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