Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2012

Is voter registration becoming obsolete?

December 9, 2012


Several days after the Nov. 6 general election, Douglas County officials gathered in the courthouse for the official canvass of votes.

One of the main tasks during that meeting was to sift through stacks of provisional ballots that were cast by people who either showed up at the wrong polling place or whose names, for whatever reason, did not show up on the county’s official voter registration list.

Among the more common problems, County Clerk Jamie Shew said at the time, involved people who thought they had registered when they obtained their drivers licenses. But in many cases, he said, the information did not get transferred from the Department of Revenue to local voter registration rolls.

It was at that point in the meeting that County Commission Chairman Mike Gaughan asked a question for which no one had an immediate answer:

Given the new laws in Kansas requiring people to show photo identification at the polls, is there really any need for the state to continue requiring a separate voter registration process?

“Right now, the voters are penalized for errors made somewhere in the system,” Gaughan said during an interview later. “Whether it’s at the very beginning or somewhere along the way, the penalty is on the voter and they are forced to jump through extra hoops” by casting provisional ballots.

“Any time you’re looking at provisional ballots, you’re looking at people who believed they were eligible to vote but who, for one reason or another, were asked to vote provisionally,” he said.

But those extra hoops could be viewed as unnecessary, Gaughan said, given that voters now have to show a photo ID at the polls. In many cases, those ID’s – drivers licenses or state-issued ID cards – contain all, or most, of the information needed to prove a person is eligible to vote: their name; address; and verification that they are 18 years of age or older.

As it turns out, Gaughan isn’t the only one starting to question the need for voter registration.

Michael Lynch, a political science professor at Kansas University, is currently working on a study about the impact that voter ID laws had on turnout in Kansas. He says registration requirements themselves can deter many people from voting.

Currently, North Dakota is the only state that has dispensed with voter registration altogether, he said. Eight other states – Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming – as well as the District of Columbia allow instant voter registration at the polls on Election Day. And Lynch said open voting without registration is common in other democracies outside the United States.

“In a lot of countries you don’t have to register as a separate act from voting,” Lynch said. “If you’re on the list of being a citizen, you’re on the list to vote and you don’t have to take an affirmative action to go and be eligible to vote like you do in the U.S.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, however, said he doesn’t believe the ID laws that he championed through the Kansas legislature have made voter registration obsolete, and he thinks separate registration still serves an important purpose.

“The first and foremost answer to the question is that voter registration allows for checks at the front end of the process to ensure that the person is an eligible voter,” Kobach said.

For one thing, he said, the photo ID law in Kansas is only meant to require voters to prove their identity. Many forms of ID that are allowed in Kansas, including military and student ID’s, do not show the person’s address and do not necessarily verify that they are a U.S. citizen or legal resident of Kansas.

Also, Kobach said, those ID’s do not verify whether a person is a convicted felon who is still on parole or in some other form of custody of the Department of Corrections.

Finally, he said, voter registration helps political parties and candidates by identifying voters’ party registration, and it helps local election officials plan for the number of ballots they’ll need to print and the number of polling places they’ll need to set up in various neighborhoods.

But other experts say those obstacles could be overcome through other means beside requiring voters to register.

Mark Joslyn, also a political science professor at KU, says the registration process primarily serves the interests of politicians to control and limit the number and types of people who can vote.

“Studies show same-day registration increases turnout,” Joslyn said. “So if your goal is to increase participation, why wouldn’t you do it? But if you’re the dominant party, and you’ve been advantaged by the current system, why would you change it?”


Paul R Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

Mark Joslyn, also a political science professor at KU, says the registration process primarily serves the interests of politicians to control and limit the number and types of people who can vote.

Good point. Dump registration or allow it at the polls.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

Every poll worker would be given the additional responsibility of determining eligibility. Given human nature, it seems to me that mistakes will be made. Maybe not the same mistakes that we have now. Just different mistakes.

Unless poll workers are given additional training, which I assume will cost a lot, and unless poll workers are supervised more than they are now, I see many problems down the line. One rogue poll worker, working in a small polling station, could do substantial damage to the integrity of an election.

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 6 months ago

If you have phote ID you vote, if not go home., forget the registration all together

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

Maybe. I just pulled out my drivers license, the one I used when I voted last month. It does not indicate whether or not I'm a citizen or a legal resident. Of course, a citizen is eligible to vote while a legal resident is not. Are the drivers licenses of legal residents different than that of citizens? Or will that be an added layer needed to differentiate the two? What about other forms of ID that are currently accepted at the polls? Won't they also have to make that distinction. Even if we did that in the future, one of the complaints has been that the elderly may not have renewed their licenses, so they were allowed to use expired licenses. Wouldn't this force that vulnerable group to go out and get new IDs that do make the differentiation?

Solving one problem that creates another isn't much of a solution to me.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

That is a good question. There is nothing on the Dept. of Revenue website about it. I flipped through the handbook and all it said is that proof of legal presence is required to obtain a driver's license.

You'd think that there would be a different colored background such as the one used for under 21 drivers. Perhaps since we already have used Jayhawk colors (red & blue) for the licenses so far, we could incorporate K-State's colors and make legal residents' driver's license background purple. ;)

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 6 months ago

Under 21 licenses are the same background, just flipped vertically. They also have the "Not 21 Until insert date. But I really don't believe that having a different colored license for legal residents is worth the fight. Between increased costs of having to print several different kinds of licenses and discrimination charges.

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

My mistake. Missouri does the different colored backgrounds. It really isn't an increased cost. It isn't the driver's license that is different colored. It is the background of the picture. You print the license the same way as always.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

I didn't mean to imply Kobach solved any problems. I'm just saying that any system involving millions of people is going to have some problems associated with it. Whether that's voting, driving, education, employment, whatever. My point is that there were problems before and there will be problems later. Simply trading one for another isn't an improvement, as far as I can see.

The suggestion that people can register at the polls means that every person will have to obtain a "new" ID, one that distinguishes a person eligible to vote from a person not eligible. Those who thought the voter ID requirements were burdensome before should think this even more onerous. That doesn't seem to be the case here. It seems the "show me your papers" crowd are now in favor an even more complicated system.

I'm not necessarily opposed to the suggestion. I have no problem going to the DMV and getting a new ID. But a rogue poll worker might have to be controlled with a supervisor or two being present all the time. Or maybe we can install cameras at every polling station in the state. The costs seem high, relative to the improvement sought. Maybe we should just wait a while and see how it works out in the other states.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 6 months ago

The problem is the elderly. Once they stop driving and if they don't fly much if at all, there is no reason for them to renew their licenses. It can also be a hassle for those who live in retirement or nursing homes to get someone to take them to the DMV.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

felons do not vote, and I hope that continues to be the case.
state issued IDs do not reflect that status at all I think.

interestingly, the same people who went all hystrionic about requiring photo ID's for voting now suddenly are in favor of them to skip registration ... if that puts them in opposition to their chosen demonizedKobach. lol. they would happily heap on th added burden of getting the poor and elderly being forced to get photo ID's then.

hypocrisy. lol

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 6 months ago

And this only applied to felons. If you're imprisoned for a misdemeanor, you can still vote. A friend of mine canvassed this past election and was sent out to the Douglas County Jail.

notorious_agenda 5 years, 6 months ago

How do you do mail in and absentee ballots when there is no registration for voting? Do you all of a sudden just have Ballot registration?

notorious_agenda 5 years, 6 months ago

Your idea of Registering Voters with a VC code is so good that we already use it. It's called voter registration and thankfully it's not handled by the Department of Transportation.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

Back to my original point, trading one set of problems for another. No solution there.

verity 5 years, 6 months ago

How ironic that Kobach's attempts to disenfranchise voters could have the opposite effect.


notorious_agenda 5 years, 6 months ago

Some here, would like to undermine the election process and use the Department of Transportation (which has had nothing but major problems this year and which is also withholding payment for their current computer software due to said problems) to effect the way elections are handled.

How much for the additional voter registration code software? When we cant register, as we couldn't get licenses or register cars for a while this year, what recourse will we have???

Our system for voter registration works, our state has a democratically elected official powered and limited by the state constitution to handle these very issues.

Our system costs much less than the DOT would need to run it, and it even has provisions for absentee and mail in ballots. If you do not like Kobach your only recourse is Voting. Very few in our state will ever support making an end run around the secretary of state in an effort to effect electoral process. In fact, it may be illegal for any office of the state of Kansas besides the secretary of state to even solicit to voters as if they are overseers of the election process. How does a citizen of our state hold accountable an office acting out of it's constitutional range for the actions constitutionally responsible to another accountable office?

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