Registering to vote: In 2011, Kansas passed the Secure and Fair Elections Act which stated “newly-registered Kansas voters must prove U.S. citizenship when registering to vote.” That seemed reasonable since Kansans must provide proof of citizenship to get a driver’s license or photo ID. However, the Kansas Secretary of State interpreted the law to mean that voters who register through the DMV or by using the federal form must also submit proof of citizenship to the County election office.
This has created an awkward situation where voters who have not submitted their documentation to the election office may vote in federal elections, but are barred from voting in Kansas elections. The Wichita Eagle estimated that as many as 50,000 voters may have been affected by this ruling, many of them young first-time voters. We encourage our young people to be good citizens, yet Kansas has created obstacles to their registering and voting.
This has been very expensive for Kansas. It has created unnecessary paperwork, required creation of a two-tiered voting system, one for federal elections and one for Kansas elections, and led to expensive lawsuits challenging the interpretation of the law. This has also been damaging to the Republican Party, as it is obvious to young voters who is creating the obstacles to their voting. Recent court rulings allow citizens who register using the federal form at ksvotes.org to vote in all state elections. However, the Kansas Secretary of State has not changed the State’s website to be consistent.
Counting votes accurately: During the 2014 election, several candidates who were behind in the polls won their elections. Polls are not votes, but this has caused concern among some Kansans that votes may not have been counted accurately. This could occur by errors in the voting machines, or even possibly hacking. It is possible to determine if the votes were counted accurately by a voting audit, a statistical analysis of the voting tapes produced by the voting machines. Dr. Beth Clarkson, a statistician at WSU, has tried to obtain the tapes to ensure that the votes were counted accurately. However, the Secretary of State opposed this, and has argued successfully that to release the tapes would compromise the privacy of the voter. That is unlikely, as it would would require the voter’s precinct and the exact time to connect a voters name with their vote, something impossible to do.
The legislature is working on legislation to require a random audit of voting machines to assure voters that their votes are accurately counted. That is encouraging. The Kansas Legislature must act to ensure that there are not obstacles to registration and voting, and to assure voters that their votes are accurately counted.