A parade of voting rights advocates on Monday urged legislators to reject a proposal by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to require new voters show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote starting June 15.
The advocates said the proof of citizenship requirement would be in place too soon for many people to get registered to vote in the August primaries and the November general election.
And, they said, the requirement would add to confusion about voting on top of the state’s new law requiring photo ID to vote.
“We need to fix now what has been implemented before we jump into the next big obstacle,” Louis Goseland of the KanVote Coalition told the House Elections Committee.
Goseland and others argued the state isn’t prepared to provide poor Kansans with free birth certificates and other records needed to register in time.
If approved, House Bill 2437 would require people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas provide proof of their citizenship. The effective date would be June 15, about one month before the July 17 closing date for voter registration in the August primaries.
When the Legislature last year approved the new law requiring photo ID to vote, it set the proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration for Jan. 1, 2013.
But Secretary Kobach wants to move that up six months, saying voter registration increases sharply in a presidential election year.
“If we are serious about ensuring that only U.S. citizens are in that wave and that alien voters do not cancel out the votes of U.S. citizens, we have to have the protection in place now,” Kobach told the committee last week.
But representatives of the NAACP, League of Women Voters, Kansas Equality Coalition, and Sunflower Community Action said Kansas elections were already safe from fraud. The earlier requirement will inhibit voter participation because getting a birth certificate can be a time-consuming and costly process for many people, they said.