Topeka Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday he will renew a push next year to move up the start date for new Kansas voter identification laws.
Kobach said he would like to have people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas show proof of citizenship starting in March 2012, not January 2013 as the law now requires. He spoke before a meeting of a task force working on implementing the new law.
The secretary of state said the goal was to prevent any non-U.S. citizens from registering to vote in Kansas and spoiling the integrity of the state's elections. The sooner Kansas can begin verifying citizenship, the more secure the elections will be, he argues.
"That's really the main legislative change I would like to see," the Republican said. "That way, the bulk of the registrations in the 2012 cycle will be properly analyzed for citizenship."
A bill that would have made that change was proposed during the 2011 legislative session, but was defeated after the initial law was passed.
He said with the effective date moved up, it would be easier to prevent non-citizens or other ineligible people from voting.
"If you don't have the screening in place, it's almost impossible to find the people once they're on the rolls of almost a million voters," Kobach. "For us to find that individual is searching for a needle in a very, very large haystack."
The new laws also require voters to show photo identification at the polls beginning in January 2012. Kobach has said he hopes to have regulations drafted by this fall.
Critics have argued that efforts to require proof of citizenship or showing photo identification will suppress voter turnout, particularly among Democrats and minority populations.
Kobach disputed that.
"These rules are designed to ensure that everybody has the right to vote and that everybody can vote," he said. "If somebody forgets their photo ID on election day, there will be a very clear process for how you rectify that situation."
A 17-member task force is reviewing the law and developing forms, policies and regulations to implement it before the 2012 election cycle. The task force is also developing the policies and procedures that election officials and poll workers will use on election day and when people register to vote.
For example, the rules will tell election workers what to do when photos on people's IDs look nothing like them.
Kobach said the task force has also found areas where efficiencies and uniform practices can be implemented, such as common forms or envelopes used by all 105 counties.
"This gives us a chance to sort of revisit all these basic issues," Kobach said.