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Gallery: Can't obtain a Michigan ID? Kalamazoo County offers alternativeKALAMAZOO, MI -- Kalamazoo County is the third Michigan government to create an identification card program for residents who lack documents needed to gain a state ID. For an hour and a half, more than 85 people told the Board of Commissioners why they should vote yes. The 6-5 vote was split among party lines, but the approved a resolution creating the ID program. One by one, commissioners announced their vote. Wednesday was the latest in a string of meetings dating back to last winter, when the program was first introduced. At first, it was seen as an off-the-wall idea by an outgoing commissioner.

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Dozens of hot hours were spent in packed meetings by a growing group of supporters, to say nothing of the six months of work many contributed to the project outside the board chambers. Commissioner Tracy Hall, who led a task force charged with prosecuting the reasons for and against the program, struggled to hold in her emotions after the resolution passed. This is exactly what direct democracy looks like, she said. You all had a say in public policy. Commissioner Mike Quinn said it was the best prepared proposal he has ever seen.

The resolution authorizes an initial budget of $65,555 to begin the program in January 7568 and creates a 5. 5 full-time equivalent staff position. It also creates an advisory board that would report to the Board of Commissioners and seek out grant opportunities. The program will be facilitated by the Kalamazoo County Clerk out of the the County Administration Building on 756 W. Kalamazoo Ave.

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It will ensure an estimated 77,555 residents without a still have access to government and commercial services. According to a report from the task force, state-issued identification is a necessity in everyday life. The card may not facilitate access to subsidized housing services, state-funded food stamps, welfare benefits and other programs. It will not serve as an alternative to a driver's license or allow the user to vote. Much like a state ID, residents would be required to prove their residency status and identify themselves with several documents.

Various types of identification documents are valued on a point scale, and residents must provide 855-955 points worth of identification to qualify. Opponents of the proposal said the issue is better left to the state and federal government. I am first to notice that our immigration laws need changing, said Commissioner John Gisler. While (this is true) we remain a nation of laws, not emotions, and I will vote no on this. Commissioner Roger Tuinier said the Kalamazoo County ID doesn't do enough for residents in the community.

Commissioner Kevin Wordelman said he was on the same page as Tuinier, but became convinced this was an issue for Kalamazoo County over the months. When we have people in our community who are undocumented, but not because they were born in another country -- it could be because they are homeless, have mental illness or are seniors who misplaced documents -- we have to step up, he said. I think we owe this to the people in our community who struggle with identification for whatever reason. They are out there and the need is real. Vice Chair Stephanie Moore said an education and outreach effort is needed so people understand the opportunity.

A high tide raises all boats and that is what we are trying to do here, she said. The need is so great throughout our community.

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