Municipal ID cards that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is launching for undocumented immigrants and others will be a valid form of identification for people both registering to vote and voting in Chicago, according to a letter aldermen received Friday.
Clerk Anna Valencia, who’s heading up the CityKey program, cited state election rules to explain why the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will accept the card.
“The Illinois Election Code requires the Board of Elections to accept current, valid photo identification cards and other local governmental documentation that includes an individual’s name and address, as proof of identity and residency,” Valencia’s letter reads in part. “The CityKey fits both of these requirements.”
The municipal ID is not yet available to the general public, but Valencia has said it will be in the spring. Most aldermen voted in favor of the program, which is viewed in City Hall circles as a way for Emanuel to boost his standing with Hispanic voters and immigrant rights supporters as he preps a 2019 re-election bid.
But a handful of City Council members are vehemently opposed to the cards. Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato, 38th, said he was “beyond disappointed” Valencia opted to make the cards a valid ID for voting.
Sposato pointed out the city is not planning to keep any of the background information applicants provide to establish their home addresses, so undocumented immigrants aren’t afraid federal immigration agents can use the data to track them down.
“I’m not sure of the validity of this,” Sposato said. “They may not have citizenship. Voter fraud would be my biggest concern.”
And far Northwest Side Ald. Anthony Napolitano, who like Sposato represents a ward that’s home to lots of city workers, called on Valencia to appear before aldermen to explain why she thinks it’s appropriate to use the ID for voting.
“This was portrayed to us as a way for people to get basic services,” said Napolitano, 41st. “This is exactly what we were concerned about and we raised those concerns with the clerk. I know I have colleagues who would not be on board with this.
City Council Latino Caucus Chairman Ald. Gilbert Villegas said he doesn’t foresee the municipal ID leading to widespread fraud.
“It’s not changing the state law, and there’s nothing stopping someone from getting a fake ID now and going to try to vote,” said Villegas, 36th.
Valencia’s letter notes that voters currently aren’t required to prove they are American citizens under state law. They simply must attest to their citizenship.
Valencia spokeswoman Kate LeFurgy said the clerk’s office consulted with city elections officials before determining the cards pass muster as one of the many types of identification that can be used as voter ID.
“We want to underscore that if you are undocumented, it is illegal to vote even with any of the documents accepted as proof of identity or residency under the Illinois Election Code — everything from a debit card, utility bill or union card,” LeFurgy said in an email.
Valencia has said the city will make the municipal card appealing to people other than those who have trouble getting state ID cards — such as those in the country illegally, homeless people and those recently released from prison. But it’s still unclear exactly what types of broader benefits the ID will provide.
The city has announced residents will be able to use the IDs in place of both Chicago Public Library cards and CTA Ventra fare cards. Valencia also hopes to be able to announce deals with cultural institutions to allow cardholders to get discounts or other perks. Those have not yet been revealed.
The first 100,000 cards issued this year will be free. It remains to be seen whether the Chicago program approaches that number. While New York issued about 1 million IDNYC cards in two years, just 30,000 people received SF City ID Cards in San Francisco between 2009 and early 2017.
After the initial giveaway, Chicago’s cards will cost $10 for adults and $5 for those 17 and younger. Seniors will be able to get the cards free, as will former inmates, domestic violence survivors and veterans.
The list of the documents the city will accept from people to establish their identities and residency is long, and includes driver’s licenses and state IDs. Applicants will also be able to show expired foreign passports, foreign driver’s licenses, high school or GED diplomas, and dozens of other forms to help establish identity.
To prove city residency, applicants will be able to show jury summonses, IRS forms, bank account statements and several other documents with Chicago addresses.