Editorial: Broken system

While they’re talking about voter participation, Kansas legislators need to take a look at a voter registration system that isn’t working as they intended.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision not to reconsider a voter registration ruling that affects Kansas and Arizona provides further evidence that clearing up the confusion and inconsistencies in the Kansas voter registration laws should be a top priority for the state Legislature in its 2015 session.

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court indicated in a one-sentence ruling that it wouldn’t reconsider its decision to allow residents of Kansas and Arizona to register to vote using the federal registration form, which doesn’t require voters to provide proof of citizenship. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had led the fight to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to add the citizenship requirement to the federal voter registration form to conform to state laws in Kansas and Arizona.

Monday’s ruling likely means that Kobach will continue to enforce a dual voting system that allows people who register with the federal form to vote only in presidential and congressional election races. Only a small number of Kansans register with that form, but the dual system is confusing to voters and creates additional work for county election officials.

Also unresolved is how the state plans to deal with the thousands of Kansas voter registrations that are being held up in the Secretary of State’s Office because they lack citizenship documentation. Many of those would-be voters registered with the state form when they obtained their drivers licenses, and those that showed up to the polls last month probably were surprised to find out their registrations were incomplete. Even if they showed proof of citizenship when they registered, that information wasn’t forwarded to the Secretary of State as legislators were promised it would be when they approved the proof-of-citizenship requirement.

Legislators’ current discussions about how to boost voter participation in the state are a bit disingenuous as long as the state perpetuates a system in which voters who think they are registered later find out they aren’t registered at all or can vote only in federal races.

The confusing administration of the current registration process is a disservice to Kansas voters. The Legislature needs to get involved and bring some consistency to this broken system.