Voter ID bill approved, criticized

Governor says requiring more identification to register is a solution to a nonexistent problem

? Democratic leaders on Friday criticized a bill approved by the Senate that would require Kansans to show photo identification to vote and proof of citizenship to register to vote.

State Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and the sponsor of Senate Bill 169, said the measure was necessary to combat voter fraud by ensuring that only qualified voters were able to cast ballots.

“Every Kansas citizen deserves the right to an election without voter fraud,” Huelskamp said after the measure was approved 28-12 Thursday night and sent to the House.

Twenty-six Republicans, including Roger Pine of Lawrence, and two Democrats voted for the bill. Eight Democrats, including Marci Francisco of Lawrence, and four Republicans voted against it.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, said there has been no evidence of voter fraud in Kansas, and that the identification requirements will cause voter frustration and reduce turnout.

“Why do we need a solution to a problem that we don’t have, which may indeed erect even more barriers for Kansans who want to participate?” Sebelius asked. Sebelius vetoed a similar bill in 2003.

Democrats also said the bill amounted to a “poll tax” because voters would be required to produce a copy of their birth certificate or passport to show proof of residency to register. A birth certificate costs $12 in Kansas, while a passport is $97.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the bill would cause many problems and solve none.

“It just seems like we are putting steps in place that will make things difficult at the polling place, and it wouldn’t secure the election,” Shew said.

Exemptions in the bill would burden poll workers with having to make numerous decisions, he said.

For instance, those 65 or older, those with disabilities, or members of the military and their spouses would be exempt from identification at the polls. This would force poll workers to try to determine people’s ages or whether they had a disability, Shew said.

The bill opens up the possibility of fake IDs being used because of the numerous accepted photo IDs, including shopper’s cards, he said.

If the law took effect, Shew said he would have to hire another poll worker for each polling place just to handle the identification requirement. That would cost an additional $5,695 for all polling places, he said.

Shew also questioned why Kansas would want to establish such a law because similar statutes in other states have been mired in legal challenges.