Helping voters E-mail
Opinion
Thursday, 09 January 2014 10:11

By Hutchinson News, Jan 3

 

What’s this, different agencies of gvernment talking to each other? The state taking on some of the burden from the citizen before denying the citizen’s constitutional right to vote?

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office will start cross-referencing names on its list of voters whose registrations are on hold with the state’s birth certificates files to see if they can be certified in compliance with the new proof-of-citizenship requirement.

Bravo.

Kobach told The Associated Press recently that attorneys for his office and the state Department of Health and Environment were meeting to work out an agreement to check lists of prospective voters against records at KDHE’s Office of Vital Statistics.

“We’re looking for every way that we can to help people complete their registrations,” Kobach said. “This will help a lot of people.”

This sounds like a change in thinking for someone who up until now has been more focused on stopping people from voting than encouraging more to participate in democracy. But we’ll give Kobach the benefit of the doubt and credit for taking a different, more inclusive, approach.

The requirement that voters prove their citizenship has been in effect for one year now, and more than 19,300 registrations are on hold because voters haven’t produced the birth certificate, passport or other legally required documentation to allow them to cast ballots.

Nothing is wrong with a proof-of-citizenship law per se. Of course the integrity of our elections should be secure. But voting is a fundamental right of every citizen of a democracy; indeed, it is the foundation of the system. Consequently, government should not be in the position of taking away that right from lawful citizens.

The burden for proving citizenship, then, should rest with the government, not with the citizen — especially when the government has plenty of documentation of each person’s citizenship. If not the birth records of the state — remember, Kobach’s office is only checking Kansas’ records right now — a quick check of the federal Social Security records should confirm citizenship.

No doubt a cross-check with a federal database would prove challenging. But it shouldn’t be impossible. The very politicians who decry big government bureaucracy should be trying to solve it, not using it as an excuse.

 
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