The Building Blocks Of Reentry: Getting Id & Other Key Documents, Voting & Civic Participation


“When I got my Driver’s License after getting out of prison, I cried. I felt like a person again, with my own identity — not just a number being yelled out in prison. It was one of the best moments of my reentry.”

– Formerly incarcerated woman, after spending 3 years incarcerated

Getting ID & Other Key Documents, Voting & Civic Participation

The BUILDING BLOCKS OF REENTRY: ID & VOTING CHAPTER explains how to access key building blocks of reentry including: how to get identification (ID) and other key documents, voting rights, and Selective Service registration. ID is proof of who you are — your identity. Government agencies, workplaces, service providers, schools, and other institutions issue ID cards for people who are members. You will want ID and other key documents so that you can participate in all the services that your community has to offer, so that you can legally drive, and so that you can prove who you are. Voting is another building block of reentry, allowing people to participate in government elections and decisions. Finally, Selective Service registration for the military is required of most men in the U.S., and is critical for going back to school in reentry.

DISCLAIMER – YOUR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN USING THIS GUIDE: When putting together the Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide, we did our best to give you useful and accurate information. However, the laws change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. We do not always have the resources to make changes to this informational material every time the law changes. If you use information from the Roadmap to Reentry legal guide, it is your responsibility to make sure that the law has not changed and applies to your particular situation. If you are incarcerated, most of the materials you need should be available in your institution’s law library. The Roadmap to Reentry guide is not intending to give legal advice, but rather legal information. No attorney-client relationship is created by using any information in this guide. You should always consult your own attorney if you need legal advice specific to your situation.

WHAT WILL I LEARN in the ID & Voting Chapter?

    The difference between various types of ID and other key documents, including: birth certificates; Social Security cards and numbers; California State IDs and California Driver Licenses; U.S. Passports; tribal ID cards; and library cardsWhich forms of ID are most importantWhen and how to get ID (and which ones to get first!)How to get certain types of ID while you’re still incarceratedSome options if you are an undocumented person and need IDYour voting rights and how to register to voteSelective Service registration requirements

General Tips for Getting ID

    Start as early as you can. You can start gathering some documents while you’re incarcerated. Start by getting your birth certificate (or naturalization certificate if you were born outside the U.S. and later became a citizen). A certified copy of your birth certificate or naturalization certificate is necessary to get all other forms of ID. See PG. 31 (birth certificate) or PG. 37 (naturalization certificate).Stick to using your legal name as it appears on your birth certificate. Even if you have used other names in the past, stick with your legal name. It is your only legal identity.Keep photocopies of all your important forms as you go.Before you pay a fee for anything, find out if you can get a “reduced fee” or “fee waiver” based on your income or public benefits. Many forms of ID require that you pay a fee before they are issued, but some of these fees can be reduced or excused for people with limited income. Learn more on PG. 47, and always check for yourself![3] Learn about special, limited forms of ID for undocumented people and noncitizens living in California on PG. 1109.
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    Adapted from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Back to School: A Guide to Continuing Your Education after Prison, 20 (July 2010), available at


    1. What are identification documents (ID), and why are they important?
    2. Why do I need identification documents (ID)?
    3. I have a prison or jail ID. Is that enough to identify myself?
    4. What are the most important forms of ID to have?
    5. I don’t have any ID. Where and when can I start?
    6. I have used different names (“aliases”). What name is best to use on my ID?
    7. Can I legally change my name?
    8. I am an undocumented person? Can I get official ID?
    10. I believe my identity was stolen while I was incarcerated. What can I do?

    1. What is a birth certificate, and why would I need it?
    2. What is the general process for getting a copy of my birth certificate?
    3. How do I get a document “notarized”?
    4. Why do I want an “authorized, certified” copy?
    5. If You Were Born in the U.S.—Different Situations:

    6. If You Were Adopted and Don’t Know Where You Were Born:

    7. If You Were Born Outside of the U.S.A. — Different Situations:


    1. What is a Social Security number (SSN) and what is a Social Security card? What is the difference and do I need both?
    2. Why do I need to know my SSN?
    3. I have a SSN, but I forgot it or never knew it. How do I find out what it is?
    4. I don't think I ever got a SSN. Can I get one now?
    5. Pre-release Planning — Getting a Social Security Card While Incarcerated:

    6. Post-release — Getting a Social Security Card After You’re Out:


    1. Which one is right for me — a State ID Card or a Driver License? What’s the difference?
    2. Pre-release Planning — Getting a California State ID or Driver License While Incarcerated

    3. Post-release — Getting a California State ID or Driver License After You’re Out

    4. Driver License Suspensions & Revocations


    1. Why would a U.S. Passport be useful? Why might I need one?
    2. Who is eligible for a U.S. Passport?
    3. How do I apply for a U.S. Passport—In person or by mail?
    4. How do I apply in person for a new U.S. Passport?
    5. How do I apply by mail for a renewal of my U.S. Passport?

    1. Why would I get a library card, and what are the benefits?
    2. How do I get a library card?
  7. Voting Rights & VOTER REGISTRATION

    1. Why register to vote?
    2. Who can register to vote in California?
    3. I have a criminal record. Can I register to vote in California?
    4. I lost my voting rights while in prison/on state parole. How do I regain my ability to vote?
    5. I don’t know my supervision status. How do I find out?
    6. What could happen if I voted in an election that I was not legally allowed to vote in?
    7. Registering to Vote in California:

    8. Voting on Election Day


    1. What is the Selective Service system, and why is it important?
    2. Who is required to register with the Selective Service?
    3. Who is not required to register with Selective Service?
    4. When do I register with the Selective Service?
    5. How do I register with the Selective Service?
    6. Issues with Selective Service Registration



    1. CDPH Application for Certified Copy of Birth Record
    2. A Listing of Vital Statistics Office Phone Numbers for Each State
    3. Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document, Form N-565
    4. Application for a Social Security Card, Form SS-5
    5. Franchise Tax Board, Identity Theft Affidavit
    6. Verification for Reduced Fee Identification Card, Form DL 932
    7. Court-Ordered Debt Payment Instructions
    8. A Full List of Acceptable Identity & Residency Verification Documents for AB 60 “Undocumented Person” California Driver License
    9. A Full List of Countries that Issue Consular Identification Cards (CIDs)
    10. Notice of Motion for Judicial Review of License Denial, Form FL-670
    11. U.S. Passport Renewal Application, Form DS-82
    12. Status Information Letter for Selective Service System