Editorial: Faulty ‘fix’

State officials were right to reject a proposed voter registration fix that would have created a whole new set of problems.

Congratulations to the State Rules and Regulations Board for turning down Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s proposed Band-Aid for a gaping wound in the state’s voter registration system.

The plan considered on Tuesday would have allowed would-be voters whose registrations are being held “in suspense” at the Kansas Division of Vehicles to cast provisional ballots, after which they would have about a week to prove their citizenship so their votes would count. The proposal would have done almost nothing to address the huge backlog of voter registration documents lingering at the vehicle department and was described by one board member as “disingenuous at best.”

Kobach’s proposal was intended to mitigate the fact that 12,000 voter registration documents filed with the vehicles division are being held up until proof-of-citizenship documents are provided.

As of Monday, that included 434 registration forms for people living in Douglas County. Local election officials say a number of people who have been contacted to provide proof of citizenship say they presented that proof at the driver’s license office. Given the current state of affairs, it seems possible that some of these voters are having to prove their citizenship not once, but twice, in order to complete their registration. Many may simply assume their registration is complete until they go to the polls and find out otherwise.

Kobach’s plan would have created a huge mess during any election with a sizable voter turnout. County election officials may have been faced with trying to confirm hundreds of provisional ballots in the short time between the election and the vote canvass. As members of the Rules and Regulations board pointed out Tuesday, many of those provisional ballots would end up not being counted because voters didn’t understand or were unable, because of problems with mobility or transportation, to present proof of citizenship before the canvass.

Trying to shove this responsibility off on county election officials does not fix the system that Kobach assured state legislators would seamlessly move voter registrations from the state vehicles division to county election officials. It also doesn’t address the broader legal issue raised in a federal court ruling that struck down Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration. Although the court said that states are required to accept the federal voter registration form, which does not require proof of citizenship, Kobach continues to contend that the Kansas law isn’t covered by the ruling.

The Kansas attorney general has been asked to issue an opinion on the matter. Perhaps the best outcome for Kansas would be an AG’s opinion that the proof-of-citizenship law is invalid. That would give the state a golden opportunity to reconsider not only the botched implementation of this law but the exaggerated voter fraud allegations on which it was based.