Opinion: Registering should be easy

All Americans should be able to vote — the most basic right in our democracy — without having to jump through a bureaucratic maze. Yet Secretary of State Kris Kobach persists in his ongoing effort to make voting more difficult by suggesting a “fix” to a law he authored that requires voters to document citizenship.

Kobach proposes to create a two-tiered voting system, where some voters would be eligible to vote in federal elections but not in state and local elections (“Kobach considering plan that could produce two kinds of voters,” Journal-World, July 31).

His plan violates the intent of the National Voter Registration Act, would be burdensome to implement and costly to taxpayers, and harkens back to a regrettable history of voter suppression in the United States.

The very purpose of the National Voter Registration Act is to make registering to vote easy and convenient. Kobach’s proposal does the exact opposite by introducing more complexity into an already confusing voting system. Mistakes are bound to happen. You don’t have to look any farther than the 12,000-plus Kansans whose registrations are in suspense to know that there are going to be some who do everything right but still end up disfranchised because of an unnecessarily complicated system.

Furthermore, implementing Kobach’s proposal would be unnecessarily burdensome to local election administrators and would add to the cost of keeping, maintaining, and verifying voter registration lists throughout the state. It would also require printing two separate ballots, further increasing costs.

Dual registration systems have a long and sad history in the U.S. The last state to maintain one was Mississippi. It adopted its dual registration system and poll taxes in the 1890 Mississippi Constitution as a way to make registration more complicated, with the express purpose of keeping as many African-Americans and poor people from registering to vote as possible. By the 1980s, the dual registration system was still in effect and still had its original intended purpose of disproportionately disfranchising Black voters, leading a federal court to declare that the system violated the Voting Rights Act.

In advancing his latest proposal Mr. Kobach wants to climb out of a box of his own making: an unduly complicated voting system largely of his design that discourages participation in our electoral process.

We should instead strengthen our democracy by making the voting system more transparent and simple.

— Gary Brunk is a Lawrence resident and executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.