Editorial: Why not make voting easier?
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
It’s disappointing that Republicans have killed a bill that would allow voter registration on election day in Kansas.
On Thursday, the House Elections Committee voted 7-5 to reject the bill. The vote was mostly along party lines, with committee Democrats voting for and Republicans against except for one: GOP Rep. J.C. Moore of Clearwater.
Under current law, Kansans must register to vote three weeks prior to an election to be eligible to vote in that election.
Advocates of same-day voter registration argue that such laws encourage participation and boost turnout. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already allow same-day voter registration. Washington state has approved same-day voter registration and will implement it later this year. And North Carolina allows for same-day registration during early voting.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told Kansas Public Radio that same-day registration would help registration and turnout locally.
“It’s huge for us, as we’re a very transitory population,” Shew said. “It’s not just the university. My population’s constantly moving out and about.”
But opponents argue that same-day registration would increase the risk of voter fraud and increase costs for counties.
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab does not support same-day voter registration. Schwab has argued that current election laws are adequate and that any problems stem from a lack of thorough training of the state and local election officials. He doesn’t see it as the secretary of state’s role to encourage voter participation.
For eight years, Schwab’s predecessor, Kris Kobach, worked to make Kansas one of the most difficult places in the United States to exercise the right to vote. He pushed through some of the nation’s strictest voter registration laws, disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansas voters and spent significant taxpayer dollars unsuccessfully defending his policies in court.
One could argue that Kobach’s draconian approach to voting laws cost Republicans the governorship in the 2018 election. It would seem some open-mindedness to policies that make voting easier and more accessible would be smart political strategy.
Then again, Schwab defeated Democrat Brian McClendon, who did advocate for same-day voter registration and other innovative approaches to making registration and voting easier and more accessible.
Policies that expand voting options and encourage participation in elections should be no-brainers in a democracy. Instead, even something as simple as same-day voter registration inspires a partisan divide.