The Colorado Department of Revenue promises to introduce some long-awaited changes to the state's rules for obtaining an ID on August 1 — and they won't come a moment too soon.
On Tuesday, an Off Limits operative visited the Division of Motor Vehicles' office on West Mississippi — the one that purportedly has the shortest wait. But at 9 a.m., the facility was already a veritable refugee camp, with dozens of people slouched in chairs and along the corridor leading to the single unisex bathroom. The "greeter" (notably less chirpy than your Wal-Mart or Costco variety) handed a ticket with the number 335 to our operative, who'd kept her Utah driver's license when she attended school in Colorado...and, okay, then worked in the state for another year. Armed with the Utah license and a Social Security card, she got in line behind 95 other lost souls.
An hour passed, during which sixteen numbers were called. Our operative wandered outside and into the gum-strewn street, where she spied a business offering "DRIVERS LICENSE TESTING, NO WAITING" to lure antsy sixteen-year-olds.
Back in the DMV for hour two, she settled in next to a toddler who swigged from a Coke bottle the size of his arm. A scrolling sign above the main desk beamed Colorado trivia ("What railroad began and has continually operated since 1881?") interspersed with pleas for organ donation. At this point, our operative would have gladly given her kidney to expedite the wait. "You're young," the greeter told her. "Come back at seven in the morning. We open at eight."
But then, a teenager in line for the bathroom passed our operative a number he'd gotten off someone else: 318. Rumor has it that some DMV visitors sell their low numbers for up to fifty bucks a pop.
After three hours of waiting, our operative's new number was finally up. But it turned out that a Utah ID just wouldn't cut it in Colorado, and a Social Security card wasn't powerful enough to prop up the Beehive state's inadequate proof of "lawful presence." After delivering the bad news, the clerk looked down and shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he said.
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But, hey, it wasn't his fault! In fact, he blamed the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which had been a party in the suit filed last November against the Department of Revenue over the ever-changing ID rules that had stymied ex-cons, the homeless, senior citizens and average Joes alike. The Coalition had also supported a measure that would have broadened the number and type of IDs deemed acceptable in this state; when he vetoed that bill, Governor Bill Ritter said that the new regulations adopted by the department would take care of those problems.
And now the clock's ticking. According to Roni White, director of the state's driver's-license operations, come August 1, anyone walking into a DMV facility will be given a clear, detailed list of all acceptable IDs — which will include Social Security cards as backups, by the way.
As she drove back to Westword, empty-handed except for that flimsy Utah license, our operative passed a woman with a cardboard sign that read "No ID. Hungry. Anything Helps."