By Jim Stanford on July 30, 2013
Got a birthday coming up? Woohoo! Driver’s license about to expire on that day? Boooooo.
It used to be that obtaining or renewing a driver’s license in Wyoming was a breeze compared to other states, where a trip to the DMV is synonymous with a root canal.
Now, thanks to a combination of federal and state regulations, be prepared to have everything shy of a vial of your mother’s blood when heading to WyDOT.
It had been four years since my last trip through this process, and days before my license was to expire, I learned that a valid U.S. passport (in addition to my current license) was not enough to prove my identity. I also had to bring my original social security card and two proofs of residency.
WyDOT gave me the option of renewing in advance by mail, which I declined because 1) who does this sort of thing in advance; and 2) it’s always a good idea to mail such documents.
The agency gives several options for proof of residency, including copies of utility bills listing physical address. But in this age of automatic or online bill pay, 1) who has a copy of such a bill lying around; and 2) most of us in western Wyoming have no home mail delivery, so bills usually have P.O. box address, which is not accepted.
Before I headed down to the WyDOT office, I wrote state Sen. Leland Christensen and Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff to vent about the cumbersome requirements. Again, this was just to renew my valid license, which I’ve held for 20 years.
I brought with me the aforementioned documents, along with a car registration and hunting/fishing licenses to prove my residency. After waiting in line for a half-hour (there was only one clerk on duty to answer calls and serve everybody, with three empty desks beside her), I handed over my paperwork.
There was a problem, I was told — she could not accept my hunting/fishing licenses because they did not list my physical address. At that point I had nothing else, so I put down the only other piece of photo identification and proof of residency I could find: my town council ID. The clerk said I would hear from Cheyenne if they had a problem with it.
The woman in front of me was 66 years old and had spent her entire life in Wyoming, and she was having a hell of a time renewing her license, too. So many people are snagged by the requirements that WyDOT has posted the phone number of Lower Valley Energy on the counter so applicants can call and request a copy of their utility bill be faxed to the WyDOT office. This has become a standard procedure, although in this woman’s case, the bill was in her husband’s name and there were further complications. Everyone had to stand in line waiting for the fax to come in.
Sen. Christensen called before I even left the WyDOT building. Turns out he has his own horror story: His wife was denied and went through many, many hoops because her social security card had her maiden name. Rep. Petroff wrote back, saying she, too, had a nightmare experience. The rigamarole stems from new Homeland Security regulations, she said, and if Wyoming didn’t comply, our driver’s licenses would not be valid for boarding planes.
Ironically, Christensen joked, if I had just stepped off a plane from Bulgaria I probably would have had an easier time getting a license. He has spoken with WyDOT officials and the chairman of the Senate Travel Committee about streamlining the renewal process.
All of this wouldn’t be so annoying if, once it is issued, a Wyoming driver’s license were a bulletproof form of identity and proof of residency, given the many requirements met to obtain it. But wait until it’s time to renew a post office box! We’ll be told a license is not enough, and again we’ll have to jump through more of the same hoops, year after year.
Just go ahead and implant a chip in our heads already.