By Wichita Eagle, June 26
With the Aug. 5 primary approaching, the voting rights of more than 18,000 Kansans are snagged on the law requiring proof of citizenship to register as of 2013. Yet Secretary of State Kris Kobach acts as if all is well. As for the governor, attorney general and legislative leaders — cue the crickets.
Kobach even described the voters in limbo — 18.5 percent of the total attempted registrations since Jan. 1, 2013 — as “actually a pretty small percentage of the people who have registered since Jan. 1 (2013).”
Recall that Kobach persuaded the Legislature of the need to pass a law in 2011 requiring photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register though there had been just seven convictions for voter fraud between 1997 and 2009. And although he claimed as a candidate in 2010 that “in Kansas the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive,” he recently referred to 20 cases of illegal immigrants registering to vote between 2006 and 2009 in Kansas having been presented in federal court.
As Kobach downplays the number of suspended voter registrations thanks to his law, he minimizes the difficulty involved for some in complying with the paperwork mandate.
“You could just take your smartphone and then take a picture of your passport or your birth certificate and then just e-mail it into the county election office,” said Kobach, who also has characterized the suspended voters as people who “are taking their time” but “can do it at home from their couch this evening.”
Such advice is unhelpful for those who lack smartphones, computers, passports or easy access to birth certificates. The Eagle also has heard from already registered voters who’ve run into problems after moving within the state. The reality hasn’t matched Kobach’s assurances that the implementation and document sharing between state agencies would be seamless.
Jean Schodorf, the former Republican state senator running as a Democrat against Kobach, has a credibility problem on the issue because she unwisely voted for the voting changes, though she offered some reasonable remedies Tuesday for what to do about the law long term.
Unfortunately, it would violate that law to follow her recommendation to allow suspended voters to vote unless the state can prove they aren’t citizens. And there appears to be nothing to stop Kobach’s ridiculous two-tiered voting plan, under which those few voters who registered using the federal form will only be allowed to vote in federal races.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will weigh in eventually on the Kobach-filed lawsuit over the federal registration form.
But until the political will changes within the state, Kansas’ 18,000-plus suspended voters are on their own, and their right to vote is contingent on their ability to produce the papers proving they aren’t illegal immigrants.