Lost votes

8/17/2013

Assault on voter rights has no place in democracy.

Assault on voter rights has no place in democracy.

A lawsuit targeting Kansas' proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement was to be expected.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently notified Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that it would file a federal lawsuit unless the state stops enforcing a requirement for new voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship.

The ACLU claims the new Kansas requirement doesn't comply with federal election laws. A U.S. Supreme Court decision recently overturned key parts of Arizona's proof-of-citizenship law, which suggests Kansas' law also is on shaky ground.

The policy coveted by Kobach and fellow GOP ultraconservatives went into effect on Jan. 1. Now, new voters aren't legally registered until they've presented a birth certificate, passport or other document demonstrating citizenship.

But thanks to the proof-of-citizenship law, voter registration was left in "suspense" for nearly 15,000 Kansans. The mess has the state claiming prospective voters didn't provide a document necessary to satisfy the requirement, while evidence shows some did indeed show proof of citizenship at a driver's license office or had voted in the past.

Kobach — a key player in a national anti-immigrant movement who pursues policies that disproportionately disenfranchise minorities — says such requirements are needed because we've fallen prey to widespread voter fraud. But 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.

The proof-of-citizenship requirement in Kansas followed a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, another ultraconservative strategy to discourage voting by sidelining those who may not have appropriate photo ID — the poor, elderly and students, for example — and who tend to favor Democrats on the ballot.

As if making it more difficult to vote isn't troubling enough, the thousands of prospective voters on the new "suspense" list easily could be the difference in tight statewide races — sad proof that the strategy to suppress future votes is gaining momentum in Kansas.

And now, we're left to hope the threat of litigation somehow slows the deliberate, relentless assault on the democratic process.

comments powered by Disqus
I commented on a story, but my comments aren't showing up. Why?
We provide a community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day.
Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. We expect civil dialogue.
Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome.
Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum.

If you don't see your comment, perhaps you ...
... called someone an idiot, a racist, a moron, etc. Name-calling or profanity (to include veiled profanity) will not be tolerated.
... rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
... included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
... accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
... made a comment in really poor taste.

MULTIMEDIA