Friday, June 23, 2017

WA Dept. of Licensing: Designed to Hold the Poor Down

I never thought I'd miss the Pennsylvania DMV, but Washington state has made it possible.  The DMV is the butt of many stale jokes and one rad song, but in all the years I've been driving, I'd always assumed long lines were a thing of the past and that the reason the jokes were so stale was that they were no longer relevant.  I was so, so wrong.  Thank you, Washington State Department of Licensing Drivers License Center (DLC), for explaining the joke to me.

Here's the chronology:

10:30am - Arrive at the Shoreline DLC.  The very small parking lot is very full.
10:42am - Re-arrive at the DLC after finding parking elsewhere.
10:44am - Take a number.  I am 242.  Currently serving 160.  The room is packed.
11:00am - It's explained to me that I cannot get an enhanced license (required for flying), without a form of in-state identification.  More on this later.
1:00pm - My number is called.  I go to Counter 7 to answer a few questions and have a 30 second eye exam.  Sit down again afterwards.
1:08pm - My number is called again.  I go to Counter 1 to have my photo taken.  They don't show me the photo for approval.  Sit down again afterwards.
1:27pm - My number is called. again.  I go to Counter 2 to pay my fees ($89 + $2 debit surcharge).
1:29pm - Leave the DLC with a print out of the info about my license which I will be receiving in 10 days.  My old PA license has a hole punched in it by this point.

So after about 2 hours and 45 minutes, I left with no acceptable forms of ID.  Cool.

This wasn't a a big problem for me, though, only an annoyance.  I had both time and entertainment, being self-employed and currently engrossed in the Oak Island Money Pit and Dyatlov Pass stories on the Astonishing Legends podcast.  Additionally, I have a passport, so I have ID should I want to go to a bar or courthouse or wherever.  But what about people who aren't as privileged?

What about a single parent that's working two jobs to keep their family afloat?  Do they have three spare hours to sit around at the DMV?  Can they get the vacation time?  Can they find a babysitter?  Can they afford to be without a license for 10 days?  What if they need their ID for government services?  What if they're late for work because the DLC was so slow and that gets them fired because minimum wage employees are replaceable and why bother keeping someone that is late once even if they have kids because you can find someone else to do their thankless job anyway and then they have to get back on social services which is difficult since their ID is "in the mail" resulting in them missing a rent payment since they're living hand to mouth, ending up on the street, and losing their kids which get pulled into a foster care system that spits them out as batter and abused 18 year old "adults" that eventually end up in the prison system.

I don't know if I'm being dramatic.  It doesn't matter, really.  The whole point is that this system is currently designed to be annoying (or exasperating) for people that don't have real worries but completely life disrupting (possibly upending) to people who are already struggling so much and are barely scraping by no matter how hard they work.  This system is designed to keep poor people down.  Plain and simple.  What's worse is that all of this can be fixed, which if they're not fixing it, only reinforces the fact that this is all on purpose.
  • In Philly, I could go to one counter and get everything handled in a matter of minutes.  Why can't I do that in Washington?  Why do I need three counters to do what can be done at one?

  • In Philly, I could walk out with my license in hand.  Why can't I do that in Washington?  Why waste postage on mailing an ID to me?  Aside from the added costs, why increase the chances of identity fraud through mail theft?  Also, what am I supposed to do if I don't have a passport or other form of government issued identification?  How do I get into places that require ID?  How do I get medical services without ID?

  • In Philly, I could choose from six license centers.  Why are there only two in Seattle?  There are clearly not enough DLCs in the area to handle the amount of people that live here.
Two other problems that are less important...
  • The enhanced license process displays the utter idiocy of the WA State government.  I couldn't get an enhanced license without proving I already had other in-state ID.  But... once I get my driver's license, I can use that as my ID to then get my enhanced license.  Simply, I need to go to the DLC to get a license to then go back to the DLC to get it enhanced.  They are both giving me the ID and then enhancing it.  Just do it all at once rather than clogging up with DLC with more people as they come back for enhancement.

  • I don't have a middle name.  This means my driver's license now has an asterisk in it, as middle initials are used in the license number (Ex: MUSTACHET*123XY).  Don't use license numbers with non-alphanumeric characters!  Computer systems like alphanumeric!  Not symbols!  Especially don't use a character that is very specifically a wildcard or arithmetic operator!  Asterisks mean something special across all computer languages!  I've already run into one online banking system that has choked on this.  I wonder how well WA State's social service systems work with asterisks.  I'm sure they didn't have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to developers to enable asterisk handling...
Oof, ok, that was super ranty, but the point stands that this system is going to hurt people.  Not people like me, but people who are vulnerable.  People who are already in need of help, or at the very least, in need of less hurt.  Washington state government, pull your heads out of your asses and fix something that's hurting those people.

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