Topeka A Kansas Senate committee on Friday considered a Democratic legislator’s alternative to Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s bill to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, and the lawmaker said her measure would attack election fraud without suppressing turnout.
The proposal from Rep. Ann Mah, of Topeka, would require voters to show identification at the polls, but it could be non-photo ID, such as a paycheck, utility bill or bank statement. Like Kobach, she’s also proposing to require people who register to vote for the first time in Kansas to provide evidence that they’re citizens, but her requirements are not as strict as what Kobach proposes.
Her bill, before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, also omits a key proposal in Kobach’s legislation, allowing the secretary of state’s office to file and prosecute election fraud cases in state courts.
Kobach has said he wants to give Kansas the toughest laws against election fraud in the nation, but Mah, a vocal critic of his proposals, contends they will make it harder for people to register and to vote without doing enough to combat fraud.
The Senate committee had a hearing on Mah’s proposals and expects to consider them and Kobach’s legislation when it debates election fraud issues next week. The House approved Kobach’s bill last month, and Mah said she doesn’t see a way to fix his legislation.
“We should just start over and write a common-sense bill,” Mah said.
Mah’s proposals have received far less attention than Kobach’s legislation. Hearings have been packed for multiple days when his bill has been reviewed by committees in both chambers, but the hour-long hearing for Mah’s bill drew only a handful of spectators, and Kobach wasn’t present.
Brad Bryant, the elections director for the secretary of state’s office, said Kobach’s bill is more comprehensive, and county officials have already said they can administer it effectively.
“We believe we’ve offered the Legislature a better alternative,” he said.
Mah has taken the unusual step of bypassing the House to get her proposals considered in the Senate. The House vote on Kobach’s bill was 83-36, and Mah said before Friday’s hearing that she sees little point in pushing her proposal there, though she’s the ranking minority party member on the Elections Committee.
“It’s not going anywhere over there,” she said. “They already have a voter bill, and they’re not going to pass two of them.”