Topeka Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s proposal to move up the date when Kansans must show proof of citizenship to register to vote is not getting good reviews from the people who run elections.
“If you rush implementation of a policy, you have a stronger chance of mistakes,” said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew.
He said voting is a constitutional right, “so you don’t want to make a decision on the fly about who gets to participate and who doesn’t get to participate.”
Here’s the issue: The Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback during the 2011 legislative session approved two major changes in state election law:
• One change requires voters to show photo ID to vote in 2012.
• The other requires people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to show proof of U.S. citizenship. But that provision doesn’t take effect until January 2013.
Kobach wants to move that up to March 2012.
“That way, the bulk of the registrations in the 2012 cycle will be properly analyzed for citizenship,” he said.
He said that will prevent noncitizens from voting. He said he will push for this change in the 2012 legislative session, which starts in January. Critics have argued there is no evidence of any problem with people who are not citizens trying to vote in Kansas.
And Shew said the 2012 election cycle is already shaping up as a “perfect storm” of challenges in administering the election, and the additional proof of citizenship requirement would be a big problem.
First, there will be the new photo ID requirement. Second, 2012 is a presidential election year, which increases turnout. The complexity of administering an election during a presidential year increases because many voters in presidential elections haven’t voted since the previous presidential election, so there are numerous voters who have changed addresses.
Third, 2012 will be the first election after the Legislature changes district boundaries during the redistricting process.
Shew said checking birth certificates and other documents to determine citizenship is a much more difficult and time-consuming process than checking a photo ID.
Don Merriman, Saline County clerk and election officer and president of the Kansas County Clerks and Election Officials Association, also said waiting until 2013 for the citizenship check would be better.
“We have a lot of changes” already on tap for the 2012 election, said Merriman. “We are going to have enough of a struggle.”