Kalamazoo County launching local ID cards

Kalamazoo County, identification card
A mockup of a Kalamazoo County identification card. (Courtesy)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Starting next year, people who live in Kalamazoo County who don’t have a state identification card will be able to prove their identity a different way.

In a tight 6-5 vote on Wednesday, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners voted to create a municipal ID program that will launch in January 2018.

Kalamazoo is only the 17th county in the nation to adopt a program like this.

A task force of nearly 50 people created by the board, consisting of commissioners, elected officials and community members, worked for several months to determine what the program should look like. Essentially, it will allow people who don’t have enough documentation to qualify for a state ID to obtain a legal ID card while living in the county.

“It’s going to help a lot of people in our county, so we’re really excited,” Commissioner Tracy Hall told 24 Hour News 8.

Hall, who led the task force, said an estimated 27,000 residents in the county are under-documented.

She says people often take their ID for granted.

“I can go to my bank and cash a check or go and get out a library card. I have that (ID) on me. If pulled over by the police, I can prove who I am,” she said.

The county ID won’t come with the same benefits as a state ID. For instance, it won’t act in place of a driver’s license, nor will it give access to state-funded food stamp programs.

For someone to obtain a county ID card, they must be at least 14 years old and provide documentation proving their residency and identity.

Each type of accepted document is assigned a point value and a person must have a total of at least 300 points to qualify. For example, a current license with a Kalamazoo County address is 300 points, while baptismal records count as 50.

>>PDF: Kalamazoo County ID program report

Those who did not agree with the program argued it could become vulnerable to fraud, but Hall explained that the ID will only guarantee access to services residents have the right to.

“People are concerned around the area of citizenship. This is not going to give anybody any legal rights that they don’t already have and we need to do a better job, I think, of making that message clear,” she said.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller sat on the task force. He’s happy to see the resolution passed and thinks it will help in community relations with police.