Editorial: Voting rights

There is nothing more important to American democracy than the participation of its citizens through voting.

Voting in local, state and federal elections is a precious right that unfortunately is the subject of considerable confusion in Kansas these days. With the primary election less than a month away, Kansas remains mired in a number of court battles over which registered voters are allowed to vote and in which contests.

Last week, a federal judge refused to block a decision by the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to present proof of citizenship to complete their registrations using a federal form. In other states, the federal voter registration form requires voters to swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens but doesn’t require citizenship proof such as a birth certificate or passport. Legal action challenging the EAC decision still is active, but the judge said the decision should stand until the case is decided at trial.

So, at least for now, the relatively few people who register using a federal form will not be able to vote in Kansas unless they provide proof of citizenship. That puts them in the same category with thousands of other Kansans whose voter registrations have been put on hold awaiting citizenship documents. That is, unless those voters registered at a Kansas motor vehicle office, in which case, according to another federal judge, the federal “motor voter” law requires that they be allowed to vote in federal, but not local and state elections.

And who knows what other confusion will be added to the Kansas voter registration system between now and the Aug. 2 primary election?

This is an especially important election for Kansas voters, who need to hold their elected representatives accountable for decisions that have had a devastating impact on the state’s economy, its K-12 schools, its state universities and other key state functions. It’s critical that Kansas have a strong turnout of informed voters who express their opinions on the state’s direction for the future.

One of the things for which those state officials should be held accountable is the deplorable voter registration confusion that threatens to suppress the vote and compromise the integrity of the election results.

It’s unfortunate that so many obstacles have been placed in their way, but we encourage all Kansas voters to take the initiative to make sure they are properly registered to cast ballots in local, state and federal elections.

Voting is a basic right and responsibility that we all should honor — especially on the Fourth of July.