Voting hurdles

The new Kansas secretary of state needs to quantify both the problem posed by voter fraud and the cost of the solutions he proposes.

January 23, 2011


Maintaining the integrity of elections in Kansas certainly is important. If there are significant problems of any kind — voting or voter registration fraud, defective counting equipment, malfunctioning voting touch screens, significant clerical errors or anything else — the state should take reasonable steps to eliminate them.

In the state’s current financial condition, however, legislators must think carefully before moving forward on legislation proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach that would spend an undetermined amount of state resources to correct a problem that hasn’t been documented or measured.

Although Kobach hasn’t presented any evidence of how serious or widespread voter fraud is in Kansas, he has proposed sweeping legislation “to secure the integrity of Kansas elections.” His proposed legislation would require voters to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote and a photo ID at the polls on Election Day. The bill also includes new requirements for mail-in ballots.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states currently request or require photo identification at the polls; Oklahoma will join that list on July 1. Eighteen states require an ID but not a photo. Kansas only requires first-time voters to show identification when they register and at the polls.

Many Kansans may think that requiring voters to present an ID every time they vote isn’t unreasonable, but some studies contend that ID requirements suppress voter turnout, especially for low-income and elderly residents. Kobach has tried to address that concern with a provision that would supply free state IDs or birth certificates to people in those groups. He didn’t, however, know how much it would cost the state to provide that service.

The bill’s requirements for voter registration might not cost the state more, but it would pass on additional costs to county election officials who must deal with proof of citizenship. The provision not only would create an additional hurdle for qualified voters who want to register, it also could interfere with voter registration efforts like those provided locally by the League of Women Voters of Lawrence/Douglas County.

The new rules on mail-in ballots likely would have its greatest impact on elderly and disabled voters who find it difficult to physically come to the polls. People applying for a mail-in ballot must provide an identification number and a signature that matches the county’s registration record. Verifying that information, again, would pass additional work and expense on to county election officials.

Kobach’s bill also would increase the penalties for voter fraud, but a more reasonable step might be for Kobach simply to enforce the state’s current laws more vigorously. That would give him — and the rest of the state — a chance to see how widespread the problem is and how best to solve whatever problem exists.

Given the low voter turnout in most local and state elections, it would be a shame to pass laws that discouraged participation by qualified, legal Kansas voters. If Kansas has a problem with voter fraud, it should be addressed, but until that problem can be defined, it doesn’t make sense to pass laws that will set new voting barriers and increase costs for county and state election officials.


WilburM 7 years, 5 months ago

Aside from all this, the bill gives KK added prosecutorial power to "enforce" the law. There's plenty of such power in the AG's office. We don't need this ambitious cowboy ginning up "crimes" where there are none. The Legislature should stop this bill in its tracks, but it won't.

And it will cost Kansas more, at a time that we are cutting, cutting, cutting (just read the paper).

Success 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm thinking of filing an application with the Secretary of State's office to form a Kansas Corporation named "Voter ID Rrrr Us, Inc."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

"The provision not only would create an additional hurdle for qualified voters who want to register, it also could interfere with voter registration efforts like those provided locally by the League of Women Voters of Lawrence/Douglas County."

Bingo. This is precisely the point. Kobach knows that this will suppress overall voter registrations and turnout, which will make Republicans' more targeted voter suppression techniques all that much more effective.

notajayhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Except gee, it hasn't in the states that have instituted such laws. But as usual, Herr Klowne, don't let the facts keep you from ranting. And maybe it's time that "voter registration efforts" - like those of the now re-named ACORN - had to verify who they were signing up.

llama726 7 years, 4 months ago

The burden of proof here is on those who insist we need an expansion of government to secure our elections - to expand the government with the purpose of solving a problem that doesn't exist. This will cost government dollars, dollars the government doesn't have. Why waste resources if we don't have to? Not even one person can answer me on this. Can you?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"had to verify who they were signing up."

It's not the responsibility of organizations like ACORN or the Tea Party to verify who they sign up. That's the responsibility of the local election officials.

somebodynew 7 years, 5 months ago

Bozo and Wilbur are both right on this one. I shudder when I think of KK having prosecution powers given to him. Along with that will go investigation power and the right to ivestigate and prosecute whatever "crime" he can stretch under his authority.

I really don't think that he actually believes illegal (undocumented) people are voting, he just knows this is a way to get people riled up and overlook that little prosecution section. Then when he has that power, look out.....

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

And its a smoke screen to get people riled up, so they aren't looking at real problems. If he is saying that widespread voter fraud is happening in Kansas, then I guess the Republicans are responsible for the fraud, since they are the ones winning all the time. Doesn't he see how he is accusing his own people of fraud?

monkeyhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

"The federal I-9 form that employers must com­plete for all new employees provides a list of documentation that can be used to establish iden­tity—including a voter registration card.

How aliens view the importance of this benefit was illustrated by the work of a federal grand jury in 1984 that found large numbers of aliens regis­tered to vote in Chicago. As the grand jury reported, many aliens "register to vote so that they can obtain documents identifying them as U.S. citizens" and have "used their voters' cards to obtain a myriad of benefits, from social security to jobs with the De­fense Department." The U.S. Attorney at the time estimated that there were at least 80,000 illegal aliens registered to vote in Chicago, and dozens were indicted and convicted for registering and voting."

"The California Secretary of State reported in 1998 that 2,000 to 3,000 of the individuals sum­moned for jury duty in Orange County each month claimed an exemption from jury service because they were not U.S. citizens, and 85 percent to 90 percent of those individuals were summoned from the voter registration list, rather than Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records. While some of those individuals may have simply committed per­jury to avoid jury service, this represents a signifi­cant number of potentially illegal voters: 20,400 to 30,600 non-citizens summoned from the voter reg­istration list over a one-year period."

"Yet when license bureaus submit completed registration forms to state election officials, they often omit the citizen­ship status of the applicants.

Savvy politicians may already have taken advan­tage of this state of affairs. During the Clinton Administration, for example, the Justice Depart­ment allegedly forced states to offer voter regis­tration to non-citizens." http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=691

Hudson Luce 7 years, 4 months ago

Aliens voting in Chicago? Things have really changed. They've really expanded voting rights there, from living people, to all of the (presumably native-born or naturalized) dead people in cemeteries, to aliens. Next thing they'll undoubtedly be allowing corporations to vote, counting each member of their workforces as 3/5ths of a vote... I'll bet KK could really get along with that.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

But what's not said is that it's already illegal for non-citizens to register to vote, as well as to vote. No new laws are needed-- just proper enforcement.

Hudson Luce 7 years, 4 months ago

Given the fact that the Republican Party has overwhelming majorities in the Kansas House and Senate, and has had for over a century, the Kansas Democratic Party, in the interests of saving money on elections, should disband. This would cut out the necessity and expense of having a primary election and a general election, and would codify the one-party rule which is a political reality in this state. Better yet, abolish both parties and have all candidates run as independents, since neither party stands for much of anything.

thinkagain 7 years, 4 months ago

Given that the Republican Party has overwhelming majorities in the State, most of the voter fraud is probably Republican.

7texdude 7 years, 4 months ago

The state gov't is broke. We are slashing education and are about to dissolve most social services, but let's pony up some cash to fight voter fraud. Huh? Isn't this overkill? The Republicans won the last election in a landslide and their answer is to throw money at a problem that does not plague the state. Wasn't their main campaign promise to fight unnecessary spending?

Are they already worried about re-election? Come on. This must be the first step in KK's plan to.........what? Investigate more crimes that rarely happen?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.