Kansas photo ID law risks stripping voters of their rights
The Kansas City Star
Tuesday’s primary election is the first major run for Kansas’ unnecessary and restrictive photo ID requirement.
Certainly everyone favors a clean election decided by legally eligible voters. Kansas voters already swear when they sign the voting books that they are in fact who they claim to be and legally registered, punishable by law if it is not so.
But the new photo ID law implies that fraud is significant, and somehow a photo ID will stop the illegal mass of voters taking advantage of America’s great democracy.
The worriers should rest.
Kansas U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom reports no rush of voter fraud allegations since Kris Kobach took over the Secretary of State’s office, bringing his fear campaign with him. The only two problem voting cases forwarded to the U.S. Attorney in the last two years were initially brought by the previous Democratic secretary of state. Neither actually constituted voter fraud.
One case involved a farmer who owned land in two counties and erroneously thought he could vote in both places. He was prosecuted at the state level and received diversion and a fine. The second case involved a woman who cast an advance voting ballot, then moved to a different jurisdiction and tried to vote in person. Authorities advised her of her misdeed but didn’t prosecute.
The regrettable and real risk is that the photo ID requirement will lead some students, non-drivers (often poor and/or minority) and seniors to skip the polls rather than worry about whether they will be permitted to cast a ballot.
Spread the word: There are a number of permissable IDs.
They include driver’s licenses or nondriver’s ID cards issued by Kansas or another state, U.S. passports, concealed carry of handgun licenses issued by Kansas or another state, U.S. military ID, government employee badge or ID document, student ID issued by an accredited Kansas postsecondary educational institution, or public assistance ID card issued by a government office.
Those over age 65 may vote with an expired Kansas driver’s license. And Kansas is offering free non-driver IDs and birth certificates to those able to get to a state office.
Still, there’s a big catch.
The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law found that nearly 500,000 eligible voters in 10 states with voter ID laws do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. More specifically, 7,373 voting-age Kansans are in that boat.
The best rebuke to the state’s hyped election fraud concerns would be a huge turnout, especially by those clearly targeted to have difficulties. Registration for the Nov. 6 general election must be completed by Oct. 16.
Kansas lawmakers should be figuring out new ways to make it easier for more people to register, not more difficult. However, as of Jan. 1, 2013, new voter registrants will need to prove citizenship. There is nothing vague about the additional hurdle of a birth certificate to register. This is an attack on those who tend to vote more liberal: young, old and minority. The best counter-attack is for more Kansans to register and help others do so.
A small spring election in Kansas resulted in 45 ballots rejected because of no photo ID. Contrast those 45 denied ballots with the two cases of voter abuses reported to the U.S. attorney. As Grissom says, this law curtails a problem that doesn’t exist. “It seems to me the medicine is killing the patient,” he said.
Kansas risks becoming known as a state that disenfranchises its voters. The legislature should move to amend the law in January. Before then, Kansans must make the effort to register or update their registration online.