To the editor:
For 70 years, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Lawrence/Douglas County has promoted voter education, registration and active participation by voting. Therefore, we are concerned about the recently enacted “voter photo identification” law, because of its addition to declining voter participation.
This law makes registration and voting more cumbersome, requiring a government issued current and valid photo identification to be shown at the polls by 2012 and proof of citizenship by 2013 to register to vote.
Research by the League of Women Voters (data from the Brennen Center for Justice at the New York School of Law) reveals likely unfortunate consequences of the law:
• Immeasurable burdens for the elderly, disabled, indigent or anyone, such as newcomers to Kansas, who must seek the required ID or those who must locate citizenship documentation;
• Disenfranchising registered or potential voters without valid ID due to disability, age, illness, transportation, financial issues, or inability to take time away from work to obtain the ID.
As for costs, the law entails:
• $3 million to provide free IDs to an estimated 11 percent of already eligible voters without government-issued photo IDs (to charge fees is an unconstitutional poll tax);
• Another $3.5 million to provide updated IDs to the 200,000 voters who move into or within Kansas annually (U.S. Census);
• Unknown costs to local governments for poll worker training, public education campaigns, and defense against potential lawsuits.
Who will bear these costs? Funding was not allocated in the state's 2011-2012 budget. Legislators ought to be concerned about costly mandates that discourage participation by eligible voters.