Editorial: Election success?

Kansas legislators must address the problems that have left thousands of Kansas voter registrations in limbo.

A news release from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office declared, “2014 Midterm Election A Success.”

That assessment is based on the fact that more Kansans were registered to vote and more actually cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election than in any previous midterm election.

That’s good news, but it doesn’t erase the state’s lingering backlog of about 20,000 voter registrations that are being held in suspense, most because they don’t include proof-of-citizenship information.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach concludes in the news release that this year’s voter turnout “should put the arguments to rest that photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register to vote depressed voter turnout.” That conclusion ignores the fact that last month’s record turnout might be largely attributable to the fact that the ballot included some of the most hotly contested races in decades.

It also shows a lack of regard for would-be voters whose provisional ballots were thrown out not because they weren’t qualified to vote but because they failed to present proof of citizenship or a photo ID.

According to the secretary of state, “only 570” provisional ballots were cast by people who couldn’t produce a photo ID at the polls. Of those, 267 voters produced their IDs before their county canvas and had their votes counted, and the other 303 ballots weren’t counted.

Kobach’s office didn’t collect specific information on how many provisional ballots were rejected because voters hadn’t provided proof of citizenship before Election Day, but 26 such ballots reportedly were rejected in Douglas County alone. Those were just a few of the thousands of voters who attempted to register — and probably thought they were registered — but whose registrations remain in limbo because the state has been unable to follow through on the citizenship verification process that was promised when the requirement was passed.

Kobach has called the people whose registrations are on hold “marginal” voters who probably didn’t plan to vote anyway. Well, at least 26 of them tried to vote in Douglas County. That’s not a large number, but it almost certainly is larger than the number of cases of voter fraud, the problem the legislation pushed by Kobach supposedly was intended to solve.

When this legislation was passed, lawmakers were told that people who presented proof of citizenship when they registered to vote at a state drivers license bureau would have that information automatically transferred to the Secretary of State’s Office. For whatever reason that system has broken down, leaving thousands of Kansas voter registrations in limbo.

As long as that situation exists, it’s difficult to declare any election in Kansas “a success.” Kansas legislators owe it to Kansas voters to fix this system.