Voter issues

Legislators should take a measured approach to new laws proposed in the name of protecting the state against voter fraud.

March 3, 2011


Even for those who favor requiring Kansas voters to show a photo ID at the polls, the legislation that passed the Kansas House last week includes some provisions that could raise concerns.

Several members of the Kansas Senate have expressed reservations about the bill, crafted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that would require ID at the polls and proof of citizenship at registration as well as giving Kobach’s office new power to enforce election laws. Senators are right to be cautious in moving the legislation forward.

Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican, indicated that the possible inconvenience of the proof-of-citizenship requirement will be a key issue. The bill calls for Kansas to issue free birth certificates to people who meet certain income guidelines, but that doesn’t help people who were born in other states. It says an out-of-state driver’s license can be used but only if the state issuing the license requires proof of citizenship for a license to be issued. How many states require that? Kansas requires “proof of identity” but not proof of citizenship to obtain a driver’s license.

Although the voter bill lists 13 documents that can be presented as proof of citizenship, the most expedient for most voters would be a birth certificate. Some people seeking to register could easily put their hands on a certified copy of their birth certificate, but many could not. Obtaining a copy would involve a fee for many people and would take some time — time during which a voter, if he or she had not planned ahead, might miss the registration deadline, meaning the person wouldn’t be eligible to vote.

Senators also should look carefully at provisions in the law that would give the secretary of state’s office the power to file and prosecute election fraud cases in state courts. At a time when many Americans and elected officials are trying to eliminate bureaucracy and duplication of services, why does Kansas need to create an enforcement arm in the secretary of state’s office when enforcement can be handled by the Kansas attorney general? Kobach is an attorney, who likely would relish taking these cases to court, but it’s not a good use of taxpayer money.

Even though there is no evidence Kansas has a widespread voter fraud problem, there’s nothing wrong with trying to make sure only legal, qualified voters are casting ballots. The trick, however, is to draw a tough line on potential illegal voters without setting standards that will make it more difficult for legal, qualified voters to get registered and vote in Kansas.

Everyone wants Kansas elections to be clean and fair. If fraud exists in our election system, it should be prosecuted and punished. At the same time, the state should do what it can to encourage qualified voters to participate in elections. Legislators should make sure that whatever new laws they approve to protect the integrity of Kansas elections don’t place undue restrictions on qualified voters who simply want to register and cast their ballots.


Phillbert 6 years, 5 months ago

Kobach gave legislators a sheaf of alleged "election crimes" so Sedgwick County investigated. Only two of the cases Kobach claimed were crimes actually were. Two cases of voter fraud over 13 years. Sure sounds "rampant" to me. http://www.kansas.com/2011/03/01/1741068/officials-say-only-two-cases-of.html

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

The unicorns are coming! The unicorns are coming! Perhaps cooler heads will prevail in the Senate. The SoS is a clerk and should not be given additional powers. If this were an issue, there are mechanisms to deal with it that don't require new law. Deep breaths, Senators!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Given that voter fraud is essentially non-existent, a "measured approach" would mean not trying to fix what ain't broken.

But just like the union-busting going on in Wisconsin, this isn't about fixing anything. This is fabricating a crisis as a cover for demagoguery that is a direct attack on democracy.

Kirk Larson 6 years, 5 months ago

So Kobach wants an army of minions to enforce his solution-without-a-problem. Maybe he thinks this is a jobs bill. Someone has to make the jackboots.

usnsnp 6 years, 5 months ago

If voter fraud is so rampent in Kansas, we had better investigate the Republican Party they control all the Federal and State elected jobs in the state.

voevoda 6 years, 5 months ago

The editorial makes a valid point in noting that it may not be easy for prospective voters to obtain a birth certificate. But the editorial underestimates the complexity.
I did some quick checking into obtaining a non-Kansas birth certificate. From a government site, a voter can order a birth certificate on-line, but must present (scan or xerox and mail) a photo identification to get one. So in order to obtain an identification card valid to vote in Kansas, one must already have a valid identification card. And a credit card. The cost quoted was $28.00. In a poor household, that could easily be a week's groceries. However, for $92.00, one can order a birth certificate without presenting any sort of photo ID. It is unclear whether there are any effective checks to prevent fraud, but I got all the way through the on-line process up to the point of payment without being ask a question that anybody on Facebook couldn't answer. So not only would Kobach's system be burdensome, preventing some citizens from voting, but it would also be ineffective in preventing voter fraud.

Orwell 6 years, 5 months ago

Does anyone really think this is about vote integrity? Get real.

Kobach's objectives, in no particular order, are: (1) to promote Kobach, (2) to drum up income for Kobach for "consulting" with like-minded folks in other states, and (3) to suppress voter turnout in the generally accepted belief that this helps Republican candidates.

Kansas voters haven't made this bad a choice since electing Phill Kline – and we've all seen how well that one turned out.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Can you provide any evidence that ACORN was involved in ANY cases of voter fraud? Likewise, can you provide ANY evidence that ANY immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, have vote in ANY elections in Kansas in the last several elections?

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

What was the actual percentage of the win exactly?

Landslide would imply something like 95-5% - are the actual numbers anywhere near that amount?

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

The only numbers I can find immediately offer a 57.8% victory - hardly a landslide.

It means that more than 4 people in 10 didn't vote for him, and fewer than 6 in 10 did.

Jan Rolls 6 years, 5 months ago

Stick with the crooks like Kobach who is being investigated this very minute for the KS gop not paying taxes when he was in charge of it. Look at the new census data. He is a racist that wants to find a way to suppress hispanic voting. He wasn't elected to be a cop but rather a paper pusher.

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