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?”


Gandalf 1 year, 4 months ago

Somehow I don't think trying to guarantee every eligble voter the right to vote is trying to undermine the system.

" 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" care to provide your source? All I could find in the Kansas Constitution and Bill of Rights was:

Kansas Constitution Kansas Executive Orders State Data Center Local Government Information Kansas Information for Students & Researchers Kansas Depository Program Kansas Topics

Article Four: Elections 1: Mode of voting. All elections by the people shall be by ballot or voting device, or both, as the legislature shall by law provide.

2: General elections. General elections shall be held biennially on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November in even-numbered years. Not less than three county commissioners shall be elected in each organized county in the state, as provided by law.

3: Recall of elected officials. All elected public officials in the state, except judicial officers, shall be subject to recall by voters of the state or political subdivision from which elected. Procedures and grounds for recall shall be prescribed by law.

And as far as the DOT's computer problems. . .what do you expect when people are hired by religious preference rather than expertise.

Kansas is listed as one of the worst three states for voter caging and illegal purgings. If that sounds good to you, you must be a teapub!


notorious_agenda 1 year, 4 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?


verity 1 year, 4 months ago

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



Darin wade 1 year, 4 months ago

Photo - ID is necessary to counter attack Illegal citizenship,

I extremely agree with the state, if you get Penalized for mistakes its because every voter Is familiar with the process unless your illegally Obtaining registration..


notorious_agenda 1 year, 4 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?


bearded_gnome 1 year, 4 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


Gandalf 1 year, 4 months ago

Sorry, I don’t think kobach has solved ANY problems! People can register (for federal elections) when they obtain or renew their DL’s. It would not be a problem to put another identifier (DL, CCL or glasses etc,) Just add a VC for voting citizen. That would cure a lot of the problems that koboch HAS created. Same goes for State ID’s . As far as the elderly goes, koboch has already disenfranchised a fair number. The argument that allowing DL’s or SID’s to be used as proof of registration (at least if marked as VC) is completely specious.


Gandalf 1 year, 4 months ago

Looking at how much damage 1 rogue Secretary of State has inflicted on the voting process to limit and eliminate legal voters. I think the chance of rogue election volunteers would cause less problems than the so called problem with illegal voters. It would not be any problem to set up a registration booth at poling sites. It would be even cheaper to simply allow anyone with valid ID to vote.


FlintlockRifle 1 year, 4 months ago

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


jhawkinsf 1 year, 4 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.


tange 1 year, 4 months ago

/ Kobach really will be trampled to death by chickadees


Paul R Getto 1 year, 4 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.


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