If there was reason to believe that Kansas has a serious problem with noncitizens voting in its elections, it might make sense to rush into a voter registration system designed to stem such abuse.
However, because there is little evidence that such a problem exists, it only makes sense for the state to take a little time to implement the requirement that Kansas residents show proof of citizenship when they register to vote.
The county clerks who actually have to run the elections are saying they have enough changes to deal with in the coming year without adding the proof-of-citizenship requirement. Secretary of State Kris Kobach should respect their opinion.
Earlier this year, the Kansas Legislature approved two laws proposed by Kobach to increase election security in the state: a requirement that voters show proof of their U.S. citizenship when they register to vote and also show photo identification at the polls.
The voter ID law is scheduled to go into effect in January 2012, but lawmakers thought that was enough change for one year, so they pushed the implementation of the proof-of-citizenship requirement back to January 2013. Earlier this month, Kobach said he planned to urge the 2012 Legislature to move the citizenship requirement up to March 2012. His goal is to have both changes in place before the 2012 presidential election.
A statewide task force, which includes Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, is working on the details to implement both laws — and there are many details to consider. Because 2012 is a presidential election, it will attract many voters who may not have voted since the last presidential election. Some people may have moved during that time. Many voters will not be familiar with the voter ID requirement. Election workers will have to be trained on how to handle various situations, such as people presenting IDs with addresses that don’t match election records or have photos that don’t look a lot like the people presenting them.
During a high-volume presidential election, resolving all of these issues could cause significant delays at the polls. Trying to run a smooth, efficient election despite the new voter ID laws is enough to ask of county election officials. Trying to rush the implementation of the citizenship law would be an invitation to mistakes and frustration for both voters and election officials.
We know that Kobach wants to make Kansas elections the most secure in the nation, but the mistakes that might result from such rapid implementation of the citizenship/registration law pose a greater threat to the integrity of the 2012 elections than the handful of noncitizen voters who might evade current safeguards to cast illegal ballots.