Lost votes

1/24/2014

No place in our democracy for attack on voter rights.

No place in our democracy for attack on voter rights.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has done his best to lower the number of prospective voters in Kansas.

As part of change coveted by Kobach and fellow GOP ultraconservatives, new voters in the Sunflower State aren't legally registered until they've presented a birth certificate, passport or other document demonstrating citizenship.

But the proof-of-citizenship law that went into effect last year only put voter registration in "suspense" for many thousands of Kansans. The state claimed the prospective voters didn't provide documentation to satisfy the requirement, even though evidence proved some did show proof of citizenship at a driver's license office, or had voted in the past.

The unnecessary and problematic proof-of-citizenship law was the result of Kobach's imagined threat of widespread voter fraud, which also was the impetus for his pursuit of a Voter ID requirement that unfairly targets segments of the population such as the poor, elderly and minorities who may not have such identification — and, who also traditionally vote Democratic.

Voter fraud is so rare, it simply isn't an issue. In a state with about 1.7 million registered voters, only a handful of cases related to reports of non-citizens voting or attempting to vote have materialized in the past decade, with even fewer convictions.

Earlier this week, Kobach reported the state found a way to scan birth certificates and free up more than 7,700 people who hadn't complied with the proof-of-citizenship law, allowing them to legally cast ballots.

While that may help, what about the 12,000 or so who remain in limbo?

Keeping even a handful of would-be voters from the polls is unacceptable. Holding thousands at bay is a blatant attempt to maintain power via voter suppression.

The assault on voter rights has no place in our democracy, and is an embarrassment for Kansas.

Kobach, who has traveled the nation pushing anti-immigrant policies that disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, considers Kansas' proof-of-citizenship law a model for other states to follow.

A "solution" to a nonexistent problem, one that's also cost Kansas in lawsuits and other related issues, is indeed an example — of what states should not do.

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