Voter registration remains open until 5 p.m. today
By RACHEL COLEMAN
• Leader & Times
Today marks the final deadline for voters to register if they plan to participate in the April 8 special bond issue election that will affect schools in Liberal, sales tax and property tax rates. Yet people who are still scrambling to unearth an official birth certificate or other proof of U.S. citizenship shouldn’t despair. The most important thing, said Seward County Clerk Stacia Long, is for new voters to get into the office today to fill out a registration card, whether or not they have supporting documents handy.
“It's not too late, but it would be if they wait to come in until Wednesday,” said Long. “They can register through 5 p.m. today. They have until the day before the election to get us proof of citizenship.”
Long said she often encounters new voters who have trouble locating the necessary documents, required by the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act of 2011. The measure took effect starting in 2013. New voters must show proof of citizenship in order to be registered, and on election day, voters must present an official photo ID at the polls.
“People come in to register and tell me, ‘I don't have a birth certificate, my mom has it in a box somewhere,’” Long said. “Some of the people who’ve come in to register are college students, whose birth certificates are still back at home.”
Birth certificates are not the only proof of citizenship, though they are the most common.
Proof suitable for voter registration may be:
— An official, state-issued birth certificate verifying U.S. citizenship
— A United States passport (may be expired)
— Naturalization papers, or the number of the certificate of naturalization
— Bureau of Indian Affairs card number, tribal treaty number or tribal enrollment number
— U.S. hospital record of birth indicating place of birth in the U.S.
— U.S. military record of service showing applicant’s name and U.S. birthplace
Items like a Social Security card or a driver’s license are not adequate as proof of citizenship, Long said, although a driver’s license works as proof of ID when a voter arrives at the polls on voting day.
People who want to register to vote but are unable to locate any of the official proof of citizenship papers can still begin registration today, Long said. They will still have to present proof of citizenship before election day, but Long’s office goes the extra mile to ensure that happens.
“We actually have a lot of people who registered, started that process maybe a year, 18 months ago, and have forgotten to bring in the proof of citizenship,” Long said. “My concern is that they might show up at the polls on election day, and they’re going to find out that they are not actually registered because they failed to complete the process.” When that happens, Long said, such voters complete a provisional ballot, although it is unlikely to be counted if research shows the voter failed to provide proof of citizenship.
The situation is common across Kansas. According to the Associated Press, the registrations of 14,843 Kansans remain on hold as of this week, because they have not yet provided proof of citizenship to election officials.
To prevent that, the clerk’s office follows up on registrations that were begun but not completed.
“We’re passionate about that,” Long said. “Crystal Clemens (deputy clerk) actually calls them to say, ‘We still need your documents.’ We will send them a letter. We’re doing everything we can.”
The clerk’s office makes the proof step even simpler by providing multiple options for would-be voters.
“People can take a photo of the document with their smart phones and email it to our office, or photocopy the documents,” said Long. “We don’t expect them to show up and let us inspect the documents in person.”
Along with such follow-up, the clerk’s office is a hive of activity as election day approaches.
“We’ve been bombarded with voter registration for the last two weeks, which is actually a good thing,” Long said. “Once registration closes at 5 p.m. Tuesday, we go straight into preparing the advance ballots, which will start going out on March 19. We’re receiving applications daily for people who want that mail-in ballot. There’s just a lot of work to do.”
As long as new voters fill out a registration card at the clerk’s office before today’s deadline, “they have until the day before the election to show us proof of citizenship.”
— Seward County Clerk Stacia Long
Voter registration remains open until 5 p.m. today. The clerk’s office will begin mailing out advance ballots Wednesday. Advance voting will begin March 29 and continue through noon April 7. Voters may contact the Seward County Clerk’s election office, which is located in the county administration building at 515 N. Washington, phone number 626-3355. Or, visit the office’s Facebook page, “Seward County Clerk/Election Office,” where Long posts up-to-the-minute information. The page includes a downloadable voter registration form, along with deadlines and other information.