First person: Passport card and Halloween wallet nearly made for a scary voting experience

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Karen Hopper Usher blames her Halloween wallet system and confusion for an awkward time at the polls.

Karen Hopper Usher blames her Halloween wallet system and confusion for an awkward time at the polls.

Using a U.S. passport card as photo identification gave me some difficulty this morning at the polls in Eaton County.

Blame it on Halloween and cautious poll workers in Delta Township, Precinct 1.

I had two wallets in my purse after Halloween. My “Halloween wallet” had my driver’s license in it and my “usual wallet” had my U.S. passport card in it.

When my husband and I arrived at St. Gerard’s Catholic Church in Delta Township, I accidentally grabbed the wrong wallet out of my purse.

It wasn’t until the first poll worker handed me an application to vote that I realized my driver’s license was still in the car. I was dismayed because I didn’t want to go back into the rain. Then I remembered that I had my passport card.

A passport card is about the same size as any other card you’d put in your wallet, and it gets you into Mexico and Canada. I have it instead of an enhanced driver’s license because I like having more than one form of government-issued identification that fits in my wallet, just in case I do something silly like misplace my driver’s license on election day.

The first poll worker accepted my passport card as identification.

The second poll worker didn’t know how to read it. She first tried to look me up under my middle name, not my last name.

The third poll worker, who was sitting at the same table as the second poll worker, paused and asked for a driver’s license because she wanted to verify my address.

But my address was right there, on my application to vote. And I’d presented legal photo identification, I said.

The Secretary of State’s guide to voter identification at the polls states that photo IDs do not need addresses.

A fourth poll worker at the next station over overheard us, and looked me up on the laptop. “She’s in here,” she said.

My husband showed the other poll worker at the table his driver’s license. She showed the third poll worker that our addresses matched. Then they cleared me to go on to the next station, where I obtained my ballot.

Afterward, I called Mary Clark, clerk of Delta Township to ask why there had been an issue with my passport card.

The poll worker was probably trying to check my address because she wanted to make sure I was in the right place to vote, Clark said.

Nevertheless, I was correct: Passport cards are valid photo identification.

Clark said the list she gave poll workers of acceptable identification did say that passports are acceptable. However, the list did not specifically mention passport cards, and that could have been the source of the confusion.

Clark said she would inform the other poll workers and they should not have the same problem.

Usher is a student in the Michigan State University School of Journalism and works for Capital News Service.

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