Advice to the ‘suspended status’ voters of Kansas

07/11/2014 2:00 PM

07/11/2014 2:00 PM

Kansas voters in suspended status, this is for you.

There are about 18,000 of you out there in a weird electoral limbo. You have registered to vote, but you are not yet eligible. Your county’s election office has been working hard to let you know there’s a problem.

Some of you forgot to fill in a box on your registration form or provide an address or other pertinent information. But many more of you registered correctly at one of the Kansas vehicle offices.

Thanks to a federal law, people who show up at state offices for a new or renewed driver’s license must be offered a voter registration form.

The federal form doesn’t require people to provide proof that they are U.S. citizens. But a new Kansas law does. And therein lies the problem.

If you renewed your driver’s license, there’s a chance you didn’t produce proof of citizenship, like a passport or birth certificate, when you filled out your voter registration form at the vehicle office.

When your paperwork reached your county elections office, your registration was deemed incomplete and you were placed in suspended status.

This is a hassle for you, and for that you can thank your secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who pushed to make voting more difficult; your state Legislature, which took his advice and passed a voter suppression bill; and your governor, Sam Brownback, who signed the bill into law.

The good news is you can still vote. But you’re going to have to do some work.

First you find the required proof of citizenship, usually a passport or birth certificate. You produce it for your county election authorities, either in person or by electronically sending a copy or photo.

You can do this right up to the day before the Aug. 5 election, which features primaries for state and federal offices and some local races. Once advance voting starts on July 16, you can take your proof of citizenship to your county’s main elections office and clean up your registration and vote at the same time.

Of course, this may not be as easy as Kobach and other state officials would like to have the public believe.

Finding and obtaining a birth certificate can be difficult. Obtaining a passport is expensive. Not everybody has the skills to digitally photograph a document and email it to the elections office.

The worst part is there is no good reason for all of this trouble. Claims of voter fraud put forth by Kobach and others are vastly exaggerated. There is no evidence that non-U.S. citizens have voted in Kansas or that people attempt to vote with someone else’s ID.

If you show up to vote without your proof of citizenship, you will be given a provisional ballot. You can produce the required documentation up until a few days after the election, when a special board will consider the provisional ballots.

If you are one of the smaller number of Kansans who downloaded your voter registration form from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s website and don’t produce the documents required by Kansas, it’s possible that your vote will count in races for federal offices but not in state and local races.

If all of this sounds clunky, strange and unnecessary, it’s because it is.

Republican-controlled legislatures in many states are erecting barriers to voting that are harming college students, senior citizens and people in minority communities. Prompted by Kobach, Kansas passed one of the nation’s most repressive laws.

If this bothers you, the remedy is obvious. Get your registration in order and vote in the Aug. 5 election.

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