Registering to vote shouldn’t be difficult

06/18/2014 7:38 PM

06/18/2014 11:22 PM

“Eligible voters in nearly half the country could find it harder to cast a ballot in the 2014 midterm elections.”

Guess which state is included in that dark assessment from a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice? Kansas, of course.

Thank the GOP if it gives you pause. That’s the party that has embraced this movement nationally. Most of the new laws are aimed at increasing photo ID requirements, and restricting advance voting and registration processes.

The Brennan report was written with an eye toward midterm elections in November. Kansas is one of 22 states where stricter voting laws have been enacted since 2010, the report said. And it’s one of seven where court challenges to the new laws are unresolved.

In March, a judge ruled that Kansas and Arizona can require voters to show proof of citizenship before being allowed to vote in federal elections. Still before the courts is whether the Federal Election Commission must change its registration form. In early June, more than 17,000 Kansas voters still had suspended registrations.

The report outlines what is occurring in a historical context. The nation is amid a crucial point for voting rights, balancing people’s access to the ballot with ideas about ensuring security. Certainly, technology needs to be used to ensure that voting records are current, secure. But what is initially termed “fraudulent voting” is often later found to be nothing more than database errors.

It’s one step forward, one step back. Sixteen states have passed laws modernizing registration with the intention of increasing eligible voters’ access. That’s fewer than the number of states going in the opposite direction, but a strong indicator of pushback nonetheless.

Voters should always be suspicious when politicians propose a “solution” to a problem those same politicians cannot document. Changes that tweak law so that casting a ballot is made more difficult for otherwise eligible voters should always raise red flags. Even when the change sounds good initially. Older citizens, minorities and poor people are less likely to have the documents readily available that are now being required. In case after case, when pressed by the courts and media, states that have passed new restrictions cannot provide evidence of the fraud they claim they are countering.

The rules that should prevail are basic. We want more eligible people voting, not fewer. And if the process isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at msanchezcolumn.

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