General Civil Liberties Press Release

01.13.10

ACLU Urges Governor and BMV to Drop New Rule Requiring Proof of Residence to Obtain ID

Policy Change Could Exclude Countless Residents

CLEVELAND- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on Governor Ted Strickland and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to suspend a new policy that requires anyone applying for a driver’s license or state identification to show proof of residence. The requirement could prevent many people who are homeless or in non-traditional housing from obtaining proper identification.

ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “This policy could have disastrous consequences for the most vulnerable Ohioans. While high foreclosure and unemployment rates continue to plague our communities, more and more people are finding themselves either homeless or staying in temporary housing. These individuals often have no access to utility bills, government documents or other papers that the BMV now requires.”

“A state ID is essential for most people who have run into hard times to get back on their feet. Oftentimes, we are required to show ID to get a job, subsidized housing, or entrance into government buildings that house resources,” added Link. “This policy places an unnecessary barrier preventing those most in need of aid from receiving it.”

The Ohio BMV does allow people staying at a shelter to produce documentation from the shelter stating that they reside there. However, homeless advocates claim that this policy has not been uniformly implemented across all BMV locations. The policy does not provide for those who may live on the streets, in a car, a relative or friend’s home, or elsewhere.

Previously, the BMV only required that the person prove their identity. The new rule requiring proof of residency was enacted in October 2009.

“Demand for vital social services has risen in the face of growing unemployment, homelessness and budget woes. Those who have lost their homes need compassion and a chance to improve their lives. Instead, the BMV has created obstacles that could further harm those who are already struggling,” Link concluded. “The Governor should ask the BMV to immediately eliminate this potentially disastrous rule.”