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Two Kansas men challenge voter ID law

Updated: 2013-06-28T00:58:57Z

By BRENT D. WISTROM

The Wichita Eagle

— The voter ID law pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach violates the Kansas Bill of Rights and prevented two elderly men from having their 2012 votes counted, according to a lawsuit being filed in Shawnee County District Court.

It may be the first major challenge to the voter photo ID law that lawmakers approved in 2011.

Arthur Spry and Charles Hamner, who live in a retirement home about 20 miles southeast of Topeka, say in the lawsuit that they had to cast provisional ballots in the 2012 state and federal election because they couldn’t find their birth certificates and didn’t have state-issued photo IDs, which are required by law to vote.

When they couldn’t provide adequate ID after voting provisionally, their votes were thrown out, according to the lawsuit.

Kobach, who hadn’t yet reviewed the lawsuit, said the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Indiana’s photo ID law in 2008.

“I don’t expect their lawsuit to get very far,” he said. “Kansas and a dozen other states were relying on what the Supreme Court said in 2008 (when the states passed their own photo ID laws).”

The Kansas SAFE Act requires voters to show photo ID when they vote in person, a driver’s license number and verified signature for voting by mail, and proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

The lawsuit said Spry showed his county-issued certificate of registration but didn’t have a state-issued photo ID — and couldn’t get one because he doesn’t have Internet access or any of the IDs required to get a free state-issued card.

Hamner, meanwhile, couldn’t afford the $6 fee to replace the photo ID he lost.

Their attorney, Jim Lawing, compared the procedure to get the proper ID to a Rube Goldberg machine. He wrote that people with lower incomes, especially those in rural areas, face a greater burden to exercise their right to vote.

Kobach said the Kansas law is working well.

Of the nearly 1.2 million votes cast in the 2012 general election, 838 people were forced to cast provisional ballots because they didn’t show a valid photo ID, Kobach’s office reported.

Kobach said 306 of those voters presented their ID later and saw their votes counted.

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