Opinion: Registering should be easy

August 7, 2013


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.

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


jhawkinsf 8 months, 1 week ago

There are between 11-12 million illegal immigrants in this country now. Obviously, they are all ineligible to vote. But will that always be the case?

It been true for some time that once a person votes, they are more likely to vote again in the future. Making it more difficult to vote that first time will decrease the likelihood that that person will vote a second or third time.

I think at least some of the thinking of those who advocate for these proof of citizenship requirements is the tacit knowledge that if those 11-12 million are allowed to vote at some time in the future, they won't be voting for them. So what is happening is that they're hedging their bets, should the day come that today's illegal immigrants become tomorrow's citizens.


grandnanny 8 months, 2 weeks ago

It is not as easy as you think to prove that you are an American citizen. My sister, who is 76, does not have a legal birth certificate. She was born an home in Kansas but doctor did not registerr her birth certificate within the required one year. Thus no proof of citizenship. She has a driver's license and a passport but that took six months to get as we had to find some proof that she was born here. That is not easy to do as records for that time are few and have to be located. We used a newspaper article to prove that she was born here but doubt that Kobach will allow for that.


ChuckFInster 8 months, 2 weeks ago

If you're legal to vote then registration is not a problem. On the other hand I really don't see a practical application for this type of law.


Mike Ford 8 months, 2 weeks ago

don't worry about commenting against certain posters. they will deny the obvious to the inth. if it looks like Mississippi and smells like Mississippi it's Mississippi. every potential minority must create some kind of apartheid to try and hold onto power. it's our job to pop this apartheid bubble.


Liberty275 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"All Americans should be able to vote — the most basic right in our democracy"

There exist no "right" to vote. There is only a right to be free from discrimination.


rtwngr 8 months, 2 weeks ago

It was transparent because you could see right through individuals that were voting in Chicago. They were dead!

When the National Voter Registration Act was written it was to protect citizens, that were entitled to vote, from being prevented that opportunity. Now, we have illegal immigrants voting and duplication of votes in heavily democrat precincts.

You guarantee me a fair election where it's one vote per eligible voter and I'll side with you on the voter registration process.


smileydog 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I wonder what the ACLU feels about the current administration using the IRS to suppress the vote, or how our government spies on its citizens? I'd like to see an op-ed about those issues. I am going to have to switch parties just so I feel comfortable voting without retribution, so I won't be put on a list. How nice. I also won't be joining any advocacy groups that profess my beliefs in the future for fear of what my government could do to me for believing what I believe. Those are much more serious to me and I would argue effect far more people, than showing an I.d. In order to vote.


John McCoy 8 months, 2 weeks ago

From under what rock did Kansans find this guy Kobach? His agenda is obviously to keep people from voting. This type of political chicanery stands in opposition to every Kansan who wants his vote to count. What an undemocratic mess he and his hateful ilk have created!


Karl_Hungus 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The right is very very good at the old bait and switch...while people are worried about Obama taking their guns, the Repugs are taking many of our rights away. People worry about a getting a 72 round magazine rather than some of the real problems in the US


George Lippencott 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Absolutely and proving that you are a citizen as required by the constitution should be a one time part of it. Remember that we have a duty to preserve the integrity of the process to protect our franchise.


kansas_cynic 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Koback is determined to make voting as hard as possible.


weeslicket 8 months, 2 weeks ago

the above link being from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation "That the future may learn from the past"

perhaps (some)one ought to read the article, or else (some)one might belive that the wobbly arc of american voting practices moves towards greater disenfranchisement of its peoples. reading the article may disabuse (some)one of that notion.

(i think the ben franklin quote was especially pithy)


Pheps 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Perspective please.

"The history of voting in the United States has not been characterized by a smooth and inexorable progress toward universal political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise with respect to many groups of potential voters."


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