Douglas County will become the first county in the state to create its own system aimed at streamlining the process residents must go through to receive a photo ID needed to meet a new statewide voter identification law.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said his office will start issuing photo voter ID cards on Monday to registered voters who bring in the proper documentation. The local system will allow voters who don’t have proper photo identification to avoid going through the system at the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles. The Douglas County ID card also won’t require voters to produce a birth certificate to receive a photo ID.
Instead, Shew’s office will accept a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or other government documents that show a name or address.
“This is just another way for people who don’t have a photo ID currently to get one so that they can vote,” Shew said.
Shew said he began looking for a system to create the cards after hearing from several operators of nursing homes and other similar facilities. They expressed concern that several of their residents no longer have photo IDs, and a trip to the driver’s license office to get a state-issued ID card may be difficult. Shew’s system will allow employees of the county clerk’s office to issue ID cards at nursing homes and other sites that request the service.
“We’re not trying to say the DMV is unable to do this job, but the recent press about the DMV has increased the number of phone calls we have received from people who are concerned about taking their 80-year-old mother, for example, down to the DMV to wait in line,” Shew said.
Driver’s license offices across the state recently have been plagued by long lines related to problems with the state’s computer system.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has made voter identification a major issue during his tenure in office, saying more scrutiny of voters was needed to ensure illegal immigrants and non-citizens weren’t voting in U.S. elections.
Unlike the state’s photo ID system, the Douglas County system will allow people to get an ID by presenting relatively easy-to-obtain documents, such as a current utility bill. Kobach on Friday said in a statement that he was reviewing the details of the Douglas County system.
“We will continue to work with Douglas County to ensure that photographic identification documents are issued in a responsible manner with the proper verification of identity,” Kobach said.
Shew said he was confident the Douglas County system was adequate because it requires people to produce the same documents needed to prove residency in order to register to vote. Those documents are spelled out in federal law, Shew said.
“It is not like we’ll be standing out on the corner handing out ID cards,” Shew said. Shew also said he is using a printer similar to those used to print employee ID badges. He said the voter ID cards will include some security measures that will make them difficult to counterfeit.
In addition to bringing the proper documentation, there are other requirements that must be met before a Douglas County voter ID card will be issued:
l The applicant can’t already have another valid form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license from Kansas or another state.
l The applicant must already be a registered voter.
Shew noted the Douglas County voter ID cards only will serve as valid identification for voting purposes. People who want an ID that can be used for boarding planes, applying for government programs or other such purposes will need to go through the state system.
Shew said he believes each card will cost his office about 80 cents to produce. State law requires the cards be provided at no cost to voters.
“We don’t know what demand to expect,” Shew said. “It might be five people or it might be 500.”
The county clerk’s office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Mass. Shew said his office planned to schedule some off-site registration periods prior to the Aug. 7 primary elections.
— City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362. Follow him at Twitter.com/clawhorn_ljw.