In 2011, Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R-KS) was at the forefront of Kansas’ push for a new voter ID law that required voters to prove their citizenship. Critics argued that Kobach’s bill would do nothing but make it harder for citizens — especially minorities, first-time voters and the elderly who do not always have the necessary documents — in the name of combating the virtually nonexistent threat of non-citizens casting illegal ballots.
Two years later, the critics are being proven right by none other than Kobach himself. Since the new law went into effect on January 1, 2013, roughly 12,000 Kansas voter registration forms have not been approved because they have not yet proven their citizenship. The problem, according to the Kansas City Star, stems from instances where voters change their address or renew a license (neither of which require a birth certificate), or register to vote at the same time they apply for a driver’s license at the DMV. A computer system that is supposed to automatically update election officials with voters’ citizenship verification has yet to be properly installed two years after the bill became law.
To address the problem that he himself created, Kobach drafted a proposal for a state regulatory board that would allow these 12,000 voters to at least cast provisional ballots in the upcoming special elections, requiring them to later prove their citizenship to their local election board before the certification date.
But on Tuesday, the board rejected Kobach’s proposal, leaving those 12,000 voters unable to vote in any election until they provide the state with proper verification of their citizenship.
But as State Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-KS) pointed out, allowing these voters to cast provisional ballots would be a temporary fix that does little to relieve the burden of proving citizenship. “The bottom line is we have 12,000 people out there that may or may not think they are registered to vote,” she said.
She also noted that Kobach promised a “seamless process” to verify voters’ citizenship.
“In 2011, the Legislature was told that this would be a very seamless process and that voter registration wouldn’t be a problem because people would have provided that information to the DMV and they would automatically transfer that,” Schmidt said. “But that doesn’t appear to be happening now.”
In order for these 12,000 voters to have their ballots counted, they will now have to seek out their local election office and provide them with proof of citizenship, a requirement that sounds very similar to an Arizona law that was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional last month.
Kobach has overseen a string of confusing errors regarding the new law as well. Last year, his office sent out a memo to the state’s election boards informing them that valid public high school IDs were acceptable forms of voter identification, only to be overruled in some areas by officials who had seen or read news reports that interpreted Kobach’s own bill differently.
At the time he was spearheading the law, Kobach claimed that hundreds of illegitimate voters had been allowed to register from beyond the grave, from Somalia or without citizenship. Still, there have been virtually no cases of proven voter fraud in the state. Outside of Kansas, efforts to catch non-citizen voters have been fruitless.