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Advocates call for a Community ID to be implemented in Polk County

The ID could be used to open a bank account, get a library card, or identify a person to law enforcement, among other things.

POLK COUNTY, Iowa — Whether it's your driver's license, Social Security card or even a passport, many of us don't think twice about being able to identify yourselves. But that's not the reality for all Iowans.

Community groups in Polk County believe that creating a Community ID could go a long way towards bridging that gap.

"Think about all the people who live here in Iowa. There is a big gap, from homeless to immigrants to other populations, that are not able to get an ID for many reasons," said Isabel Martinez with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice is calling on the Polk County Board of Supervisors to adopt their proposal for a Community ID.

"Maybe you don't have a Social Security number, and maybe you don't have those traditional forms of identifying yourself or just proving your residency that, surprisingly, we get asked for pretty regularly," said Alejandro Marguia-Ortiz, a community organizer with Iowa MMJ.

The proposed Community ID is sponsored by more than a dozen local groups including DMARC, Des Moines Public Schools, and GreenState Credit Union. The ID would allow residents to do things like open a bank account, get a library card or officially identify themselves to law enforcement. 

Advocates say it could even help with fighting COVID.

"In so many places, our community have reports that they have been asked for other documentation, so that is a big barrier for communities, even as simple as have a COVID test or vaccine," Martinez added.

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It's not just about official business, though. Iowa MMJ is still looking at ways to expand the ID, such as by partnering with local businesses to offer discounts to ID holders.

"As we progress, and we identify other ways that this can be implemented ... this is something that we truly believe is going to help the entire community," Marguia-Ortiz said.

An important thing to note: the Community ID is not a substitute for a state-issued ID. That means it could not be used as proof of ID for voting, getting on a plane or purchasing age-restricted items like alcohol. 

Johnson County already has their own version of the Community ID program, which has been in service for six years. According to the Johnson County Auditor's Office, more than 1,600 people have received a Community ID since its adoption.

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