Editorial: Faulty process

Kansas needs to fix its voter registration process, not throw it out.

Identifying the exact problem is the key to solving it, just as asking the right question is the key to getting the precise answer. With that in mind, officials have a clear path toward reducing the number of provisional ballots cast in Douglas County — and presumably across the state.

Eliminating voter registration is not the solution.

The topic apparently churns its way to the surface as a result of the canvass of votes following November’s general election. Many ballots were cast provisionally by Kansans who either showed up at the wrong polling place or whose names were not on the official voter registration list.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, who by the way runs a pretty efficient election process, said many of those voters affected thought they had registered when they were electronically processing driver’s license information, although in many cases that information was not transferred from the Department of Revenue to the county. (People who have a Kansas driver’s license are to notify the department within 10 days of any change in their address. This can be done over the Internet, and the process contains a step that supposedly enables voters to notify their county election office of this change simultaneously so that their voter registration information is updated. Officials concede that even when the process is done on paper, problems have occurred.)

The revenue department’s computer software change this year has been blamed for many problems encountered by people trying to register their vehicles, but the trouble with the online change of address as it relates to updating voter registration was a problem before the computer switch.

The Department of Revenue’s ability to process and transfer information will become even more important after the first of the year, when people registering to vote in Kansas for the first time will be required to show proof of citizenship. The Department of Revenue will be required to confirm drivers’ citizenship or legal residency status and share that information with election offices.

Douglas County Commission Chairman Mike Gaughan gets credit for a creative proposal to address the trouble, asking whether it’s possible to eliminate voter registration altogether now that Kansans must present photo IDs at the polling place. Others apparently share that line of thought.

One who doesn’t is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who points out that many forms of photo ID accepted at polling places don’t contain all the information gathered in the registration process, including an individual’s address, which is needed to make sure that the person is at the correct polling place. He also noted IDs do not verify whether a person is a convicted felon ineligible to vote. These are legitimate concerns.

If the situation arises from the revenue department’s software or the process being used to transfer information, then the obvious answer is to fix the software or mend the process and somehow close the loop so that verification is provided. That’s a much clearer and more direct attack on the problem than eliminating registration — and unnecessarily inviting other problems and complications. Fix the problem, folks! Make the process reliable.