It’s time for Secretary of State Kris Kobach to accept the Jan. 1, 2013, effective date for a new law that will require Kansans to prove their citizenship when registering to vote.
That’s the date approved by the Kansas Legislature and the governor last year, but Kobach has continued to fight for a bill that would move up implementation of the law to June 15. Last week the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee heard more testimony on the bill but took no action on it. Because the committee isn’t scheduled to meet again in this session, that essentially kills the bill. Kobach argues that the committee could easily reconvene to consider the bill, but its Republican chair says that won’t happen. The bill is dead unless the full Senate, with a supermajority vote, removes the bill from committee and brings it to the floor. Given the concerns senators have about the bill, that’s not likely to happen.
Senators learned last week that a system that would allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to automatically transfer citizenship documentation to election officials will not be ready by June 15, which means it will be more difficult for election officials to verify citizenship. Election officials already have a new voter ID law to implement for the 2012 presidential election, and it makes sense to let them work out the kinks in that process before adding the citizenship requirement for voter registration.
There might be a reason to rush this system into action if there were evidence of significant voter fraud in recent Kansas elections, but that isn’t the case. Kobach should accept the Senate committee action and focus his attention on helping election officials smoothly implement the voter ID law so that it doesn’t cause undue delays at the poll or discourage eligible voters from casting their ballots in upcoming primary and general elections.