Proposed voting regulation changes to draw opponents
Topeka ? The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters are among the groups expected to turn out Wednesday to speak against proposed new voting regulations that would allow the Kansas Secretary of State to purge voter registration applications for more than 30,000 people who have failed to show proof of citizenship.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach is proposing that new rule. A public hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of Memorial Hall, 120 SW 10th Ave., in Topeka.
“Rather than strengthening democracy by making voter registration easier, the secretary of state continues to try to create new barriers to registration by eligible Kansans,” said ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Micah Kubic.
Also expected to testify is Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, according to information from Kobach’s office.
Since January 2013, people registering for the first time in their county have been required to show proof of U.S. citizenship. Those who fail to do so, or who fail to provide any other required information, have their applications placed “in suspense” until they provide the necessary documents.
Since then, according to Kobach’s office, more than 30,000 registrations have been placed in suspense, the vast majority of them for lack of citizenship documentation.
Under the proposed rule, incomplete registrations would be canceled after 90 days if voters fail to provide all the required information.
Bryan Caskey, who heads the elections division in the secretary of state’s office, told a legislative panel in August that county election officers need to be able to clean up their voting rolls.
He said some of the would-be voters have been on the list since 2013 and have not responded to numerous phone calls and mail notices asking them to complete their registrations. He speculated that many of them have since moved to another address, but there is nothing in current law that allows counties to purge those applications from the rolls.
But the ACLU contends the 90-day time limit is arbitrary and that there is nothing in state law that authorizes the secretary of state to make such a regulation.
“It is not surprising that the secretary’s most recent proposed regulation exceeds the authority granted to his office, especially since the primary purpose of the regulation appears to be to minimize the embarrassment caused by the sheer size of the suspense list,” Kubic said.
The 90-day time limit is one of two new regulations Kobach is proposing. The other, which would actually make it easier for some people to register, gives county election officers clear instructions about how to handle situations when someone’s birth certificate or other document doesn’t match information on his or her current identification.
That frequently happens when someone gets married and changes his or her name, or changes gender. But sometimes there are also minor conflicts regarding a person’s date of birth or place of birth.
Under the proposed rule, election officers would first ask the voter for a secondary form of government-issued identification. A voter would also be allowed to sign a sworn affidavit attesting to the fact that he or she is, in fact, the person listed on the document.
People who are unable to attend the public hearing may also submit written comment through the secretary of state’s website.
Kobach has not said how soon after the public hearing he plans to finalize the new regulations.