A Republican state senator fired back Tuesday at the critics of a new rule about Kansas voter registration applications, saying the uproar is unfounded.
In fact, said Sen. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth, the controversy arose because the rule, which discards incomplete voter registrations after 90 days, is too lenient.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” Fitzgerald said at a legislative committee meeting.
Voter applications without proof-of-citizenship documents, as required by state law, could have been discarded immediately, he said.
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Fitzgerald asked state elections director Bryan Caskey how long it takes to fill out a new application.
“I would give you conservatively a minute,” Caskey said.
The discussion came up at a meeting about new legislation that shifts municipal elections from April to November starting in 2017.
With Caskey at the podium on that topic, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, asked him about the 90-day rule, referencing the removal of “voters.”
Caskey replied that the applicant list, which has grown to more than 30,000 names, contains only applicants, not voters.
Many of the voting applications are missing proof-of-citizenship documents such as a birth certificate or passport, and some are missing other information or a signature.
“No one on the list is a registered voter,” Caskey said.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s rule that applications would be discarded after 90 days took effect Friday. Caskey clarified that the 90-day limit for holding the application starts when it is filed.
Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, said it seemed unfair to start the clock when the application was filed rather than when the rule took effect.
“People didn’t know they had 90 days,” he said.
But Caskey said county election officials have contacted the applicants at least twice and sometimes many more times to remind them to complete the paperwork. If they haven’t fixed the application by then, they can fill out a new application form, he said.
The applications are kept because voters signing registration forms at events and other venues could very well not have proof-of-citizenship documents with them, Caskey said.
So for being kind and allowing applicants to complete their applications later, Fitzgerald said, “we get damned in the national press.”
“I don’t know why we continue to allow ourselves to be pilloried around the world because we’re being nice,” he said.
On the issue of municipal elections, Caskey said the secretary of state will issue a rule that city elections to be held in 2016 should be scheduled for the first Tuesday in April 2016.
A primary election, if needed, would be five weeks before that. The shift to fall begins in 2017.