Washtenaw County is the first in the nation to offer ID to all residents

Youth hold signs supporting the Washtenaw ID Project at the Oct. 7 Ypsilanti City Council meeting. 

Photo by: Allie Tomason


The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted in support of instituting the Washtenaw I.D. Program Nov. 19.

The decision marks the culmination to a two-year effort to ensure that all members of communities in Washtenaw County will have the opportunity to obtain a rightful and legal identity.

“We are incredibly proud to be the first county in the nation to provide photo IDs to everyone in our area,” Keta Cowan, Executive Director for Syond Community Services, said.

The County Commissioners’ Ways and Means Committee in a 7-2 vote, Nov. 5, favored the effort and Ypsilanti City Council, Oct. 7, carried the motion unanimously.

The card will be available to an estimated 38,000 citizens and 5,000 residents who lack any form of photo identification and who are unable to qualify for statewide identification cards due to an absence of supporting documentation.

Cowan said that lack of identification does not only affect those who are here without legal permission, but homeless people, those with mental illness, the transgender community and low socioeconomic status individuals.

“For many, they will no longer be John or Jane Doe. Many will be able to contribute more,” Martha Valadez, community organizer for the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said. “It will give dignity and respect to those who, currently, do not hold the basic right to identify themselves.”

According to a press release, the county ID will give residents access to fundamental services in their communities. It will allow them to open bank accounts, sign rental agreements, fill prescriptions, and prove their identity with local law enforcement.

“From here it goes to the office of the county clerk, who will administer the program, where they will begin reviewing eligibility criteria,” Cowan said. “They will review the design of the card and begin designing the workflow, applications and what the process will actually look like for folks to come through to get the card.”

It is unclear whether the new county card will constitute eligibility for the state identification card or that it will be accepted outside of the county.

Cowan said that the county staff will take responsibility for implementation and that the card is expected to become available in April or May.

“I am looking forward to invest my $25 for this ID program,” Valadez said. “I am proud to know our county is working to bring forth local solutions to improve the quality of life and well-being of our most vulnerable.”

While the voting process is complete, the fundraising efforts for the project are still underway.

The final fundraising event for 2014 will be at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company, located at 720 Norris Street, Dec. 14 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by visiting, washtenawid.eventbrite.com.

Admission will include beer samples from Ann Arbor Brewing and appetizers from Sidetrack’s Bar and Grill. There will also be a live auction and raffle.

For more information about the Washtenaw County ID Project and its efforts, visit: washtenawid.com.

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