While many Kansans believe it is reasonable to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, special circumstances may make it difficult for some Kansans to obtain the necessary IDs. At least for the first elections that require photo ID, state and county election officials should make an extra effort to inform voters and make the process easier.
Nursing homes, for instance, have expressed concern that many of their residents may not have appropriate IDs even though they are registered to vote. Some no longer drive, so they don’t have a driver’s license, and they may not have taken the trouble to obtain a nondriver’s identification card.
It may require a little extra effort, but obtaining an ID won’t be that difficult for most voters. However, for some, the process may pose obstacles that are hard to clear. Registered Kansas voters can request a free photo ID, but they still must go to a driver’s license station to obtain the ID. If they don’t drive, getting to the station and enduring the long waits currently being reported at many Kansas Division of Motor Vehicle offices might be a problem.
To obtain an ID, people must present other forms of identification. That may be fairly easy for someone born in Kansas, but it gets more complicated if you were born in another state. Kansans can obtain a free copy of their birth certificates to facilitate the ID process, but people born elsewhere would need to contact their native state and probably pay a fee to obtain a birth certificate. If women have changed their names as a result of marriage or divorce, they also would have to document that change with a marriage certificate or divorce decree.
None of these obstacles is insurmountable, but it takes time and effort.
The Kansas Secretary of State’s office and county election officials are trying to deal with various voter concerns, including those expressed by nursing home officials. Hopefully, their efforts will be successful. The Aug. 7 primary will be the first statewide election at which photo IDs will be required. Although participation in primary elections usually is low, this primary involves more than the usual number of contested races, and it should offer at least some indication of how big an issue or problem the new voter ID law will pose for voters and election officials.