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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Voter snafu

This is not the seamless voter registration process the Kansas secretary of state promised to Kansas legislators.

June 25, 2013

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When Kansas legislators were considering a law that would require new Kansas voters to document their citizenship, Secretary of State Kris Kobach assured them that a new computer system being installed by the Division of Motor Vehicles could seamlessly provide citizenship information to county election officials across the state.

Over Kobach’s objections, lawmakers even delayed the start of the proof-of-citizenship requirement for six months to ensure the computer system would be working properly.

Unfortunately, some numbers reported in Monday’s Journal-World confirm that an additional six months — even an additional year — was not sufficient to solve this problem. And thousands of potential Kansas voters are paying the price.

According to the law, which took effect Jan. 1, people are supposed to be able to show proof of citizenship and register to vote when they renew or obtain new drivers licenses through the DMV. Both their registration and citizenship documentation would automatically be sent to the county in which they were registering.

Easy, right? Except that it isn’t working. The DMV says it is sending the documentation to the Secretary of State’s Office, but most of it isn’t finding its way to county election officials. More than 11,000 people — about a third of the applicants statewide who have attempted to use this system since the first of the year — have had their registration applications placed “in suspense” because the counties received the applications but not the proof-of-citizenship documentation.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said his office had received about 1,000 registration applications so far this year from various sources including walk-ins to the office and the DMV. In spite of the fact that Shew’s staff has actively worked to contact potential voters to verify their citizenship, 370 registration applications are in suspense. Of those, 310 were forwarded from the DMV.

Kobach acknowledged that the DMV system isn’t working as intended but said citizenship documents were being forwarded by email. Shew said that simply is not the case. He estimated that only about 20 percent of the registrations forwarded to his office from the DMV have the proper citizenship verification.

Shew and other county election officials worry about following up on the large number of in-suspense registrations, especially when their business picks up before next year’s general election. Shew said his office typically receives 4,000 to 5,000 new registrations between an August primary and a November general election. He’s included additional money in next year’s budget request to help hire extra staff to follow up on in-suspense voter registration applications.

The state law has no provision for that follow-up, and it’s up to individual counties how vigorously they pursue potential voters. Registrants who don’t provide — in many cases, for the second time — their proof of citizenship to county officials may or may not be eligible to cast even a provisional ballot in the next election.

Whether this is a technical problem or a human problem, this is not the system that Kobach promised to Kansas legislators who approved the citizenship requirement for voter registration, and the ongoing issues leave the secretary of state vulnerable to allegations that the new requirement will suppress rather than encourage voter participation. Legislators must hold Kobach to account for these problems and make sure they are resolved well before the 2014 elections.

Comments

weeslicket 1 year, 5 months ago

".... and the ongoing issues leave the secretary of state vulnerable to allegations that the new requirement will suppress rather than encourage voter participation. "

folks knew this was coming. not sure how that makes kobach "vulnerable to allegations" though.

chootspa 1 year, 5 months ago

We made that allegation before the law was even passed. Seems it's working as intended as far as Kobach is concerned.

gccs14r 1 year, 5 months ago

It'd be interesting to see if the delayed document forwarding correlates with party affiliation.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 5 months ago

The singular intent of Kobach is to prevent voters that may vote against the Koch-Republican party from voting in Kansas.

THat is the issue.

That is the ONLY issue.

sciencegeek 1 year, 5 months ago

The driver license system is brought to you by the same people who brought you the tag renewal system. You ignore all those "lazy, incompetent" state employees who knew this was a disaster ages ago, and this is what you get.

The screwup with proof-of-citizenship would only matter to Kobach if he was in his office long enough to pay attention. As it is, it's just another sound bite that must be generated. As long as the Koch machine can buy off enough voters in Kansas, nothing else matters anyway.

gr 1 year, 5 months ago

For several years, they charge an extra $4 for DMV "modernization". Now that they switched over, the charge is still there, explained as they need it. We saw how that worked out. And I don't believe it was state employees, but a 3rd-party company who has no reason to make good. They messed up terribly, but what did they suffer? If the state was a real business, they would consider penalizing this 3rd-party, making them fix it, or rolling back to what they had before. But no, we proceed on, make the people pay the penalty of costs, wait times, or "the system doesn't seem to have you in it any longer". And we proceed on, Hey how about adding voter registration to a failed system!

"because the counties received the applications but not the proof-of-citizenship documentation."

But a bigger question in this particular case is, why does the county need documentation proof? Wasn't the whole "brainchild" of the idea supposed to be, the license registration takes care of that? So no documentation needs to be forwarded. Just a yes or no, was proper documentation presented / are they allowed to vote.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

"But a bigger question in this particular case is, why does the county need documentation proof? Wasn't the whole "brainchild" of the idea supposed to be, the license registration takes care of that?"

Right on point.

jafs 1 year, 5 months ago

Why on earth would he do that?

He, and many other like minded people don't like what the federal government does.

Not that I agree with your characterization, of course.

dinglesmith 1 year, 5 months ago

Anyone else find it ironic that the SCOTUS issued a ruling on the Voting Rights Act this morning? I happen to agree with the ruling in this case, but this is a reminder of why the law exists and remains important. (If you're not watching the news, the SCOTUS ruling invalidated only one part of the law.)

gccs14r 1 year, 5 months ago

And today Texas went back to the discriminatory district maps that got them into trouble in the first place. It's all downhill from here for minority voters in the South.

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