So much for the “seamless” system of moving citizenship information from the Kansas Department of Revenue to Kansas election officials.
The demise of the system touted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach when he pushed for passage of a law requiring new Kansas voters to provide proof of citizenship was confirmed in a recent interview in which Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan said Kansas no longer plans to require people obtaining or renewing driver’s licenses to produce proof they are living in the U.S. legally. If people voluntarily present birth certificates, passports or other citizenship documents when getting their licenses, that will be noted on their driver’ licenses, but the Revenue Department apparently will take no responsibility for gathering or forwarding that information to facilitate voter registration in the state. The federal “Motor Voter” law requires that people be allowed to register to vote when they get a driver’s license, but it includes no provision for proving citizenship.
State officials originally had planned to require additional information on drivers licenses to conform to a 2005 federal anti-terrorism law. However, after learning recently that Kansas already complies with the federal law, the Revenue Department decided to shift its policy. The driver’s license offices have had problems of their own serving customers in a timely fashion, and, as Jordan noted, the primary purpose of those offices is to issue driver’s licenses, not collect voter registration data. “(P)eople are coming in for a driver’s license,” he said, “and we want to move them through.”
Interestingly, Jordan also said his department was responding to concerns that some Kansas residents seeking licenses wouldn’t be able to produce citizenship documents. That is the same concern voiced by many critics of the voter registration requirement, who note the difficulty people who were born at home or in another state might have in obtaining a birth certificate and the obstacles people who have changed their names because of marriage or divorce might face in proving their citizenship.
Meanwhile, the registrations of about 17,000 prospective Kansas voters — more than 80 percent of which came from motor vehicle offices — are on hold because they don’t include citizenship documentation. Kobach has proposed a dual registration system that would allow those people to vote in federal, but not state or local, elections. He also is involved in a federal lawsuit seeking the right for Kansas to alter the federal Motor Voter registration form to require proof of citizenship. What he hasn’t done — with fall elections looming in some Kansas communities — is come up with a way to deal with the 17,000 registrations that are being held “in suspense.” It apparently isn’t much of a priority for Kobach, who has said that many people who fill out voter registration forms when they get a driver’s license don’t intend to go to the polls anyway.
What a deplorable attitude for the state’s top election official to take toward voters. His job should be to make sure as many people as possible register and cast their votes. The seamless system he promised to state legislators has fallen apart. The people of Kansas are waiting to hear how Secretary Kobach plans to deal with that situation and maintain the integrity of the state’s election system.