Unamused at Virginia’s DMV
Thank you for your July 10 column about Cathy Wilkinson’s difficulties in obtaining a new driver’s license after accidentally letting her old license expire. I have had a few problems in that area myself. I hope I don’t bore you too much with the length of my rant.
When I moved to Virginia from Ohio in 2003, the DMV in Christiansburg refused to accept my Ohio birth certificate even with a raised seal and a stamp stating “This is a certified copy of the original certificate filed at the Columbus Department of Health.” I was told that I needed the original copy. And yes, the clerk insisted it had to be the original and I didn’t know I could have asked for a supervisor. I asked the nice people at the Columbus Department of Health if they would let me borrow the original (that is stored on microfilm). They declined. I had a passport so was able to obtain my driver’s license with that.
When my son applied for his learner’s permit in 2007, the DMV in Christiansburg did not have a problem with the certified copy, but the clerk at first refused his birth certificate because his name was typewritten and the G in our last name kind of looked like a C. I did argue over that and his birth certificate was eventually accepted. However when he allowed his license to expire last year, his birth certificate issued by the Columbus Department of Health was no longer acceptable. It had to be issued by the Ohio Department of Health. He had to get another copy of his birth certificate.
Virginia is not the only state making it difficult for its residents to renew their licenses. A friend recently allowed her West Virginia driver’s license to expire. The first clerk in West Virginia would not renew her license without her out-of-state divorce decree. When she was able to get a copy weeks later, the next clerk told her she didn’t actually need that because she hadn’t changed her last name. She questions the security value of the additional paperwork requirements on those who let their licenses expire. If you renew your license on time, you never have to show anything else. Why are the people who are late a threat and those who renew on time safe?
Our problems, however seem very small compared to people who lose their physical licenses and don’t have a copy of their birth certificate. Have a look at the ID Requirements needed to obtain a Virginia birth certificate. Notice the first thing on the list? A Virginia driver’s license! So to get a driver’s license, you need a birth certificate, and to get a birth certificate, you need a driver’s license. While there are some provisions for secondary forms of identification, I can imagine that many people fall through the cracks.
As our federal and state government is increasing the number of activities that require government issued photo IDs, such as boarding a plane, opening a bank account, voting, it is making it more and more difficult to obtain those required IDs. Not letting your license expire is only a first step. Everyone should also keep a copy of that driver’s license in a safe place. I’m taking the next step and getting passports for my kids. And I’ll make sure they don’t let those expire.