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Thousands Of Voters In Limbo After Kansas Demands Proof They’re American

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Thousands Of Voters In Limbo After Kansas Demands Proof They’re American

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his Topeka, Kansas, U.S., office May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

After moving to Kansas, Tad Stricker visited a state motor vehicle office to perform what he thought was the routine task of getting a new driver’s license and registering to vote.

It was a familiar procedure for Stricker, 37, who has moved from state to state frequently in his work as a hotel manager. He filled out a voter registration form and got his driver’s license. He was not asked for more documents, he said.

So he was stunned when he tried to cast a ballot in November 2014 and was told he was not on the voter rolls. A month later, a letter from the state said why: His registration had been placed “in suspense” because he had failed to meet a state requirement he did not know about – proving he was an American.

Spurred by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national leader in pushing for anti-immigration and voting changes, more than 36,000 Kansas residents have joined Stricker in limbo since early 2013 under a state law that raises a new and higher barrier to voting in the United States: proof of citizenship.

While you must be a U.S. citizen to vote in American elections, most states allow those wishing to register to simply sign a statement affirming they are citizens and provide a driver’s license number, Social Security number, or other proof of residency.

A Reuters analysis of the Kansas suspense list shows the law disproportionately hits young voters, who often do not have ready access to the needed documents, as well as unaffiliated and Democratic voters in the Republican-controlled state.

“What a shock,” said Stricker, who was born in Missouri and moved to Kansas with his wife from Illinois. “I was under the impression I had registered to vote, I had done everything I needed to. I just thought, ‘This can’t be happening.'”

While the law won’t affect its status as a safe Republican state in November’s presidential election, it thrusts Kansas into a national debate over voting restrictions that has accelerated since the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Kobach’s involvement has raised the stakes in the fight against the Kansas law. Democrats and voting rights advocates say his influence with conservatives could help spread the concept to other states. His critics scored a victory on May 17 when a federal judge weakened the law. Kobach quickly appealed.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, and Stricker was a plaintiff in the case.

Photo identification laws and other voting measures have proliferated in recent years in Republican-held states, but “the one that gets me most nervous” is the proof of citizenship requirement in Kansas, said Pratt Wiley, director of voter expansion for the Democratic National Committee.

“What you will see is that what is learned in one state, or doesn’t work in one state, there is a small adjustment and then it’s applied in a different state,” Wiley said, calling Kansas “patient zero” in that process.

Kobach has gained a national reputation for pushing a series of voting and anti-immigration measures across the country, leading one Democratic congressman to dub him “the dark lord” of the anti-immigration movement – a label he wears proudly.

 

‘MOVING THE BALL’

“I don’t know if I would call it a badge of honor but it reflects that I’m moving the ball in what I think is the right direction,” Kobach said in an interview in his Topeka office across from the state Capitol.

Three other states have adopted proof of citizenship laws championed by Kobach, although officials said two of them had not implemented them. Bills have been introduced in at least nine other states to create a similar law since 2012, although none have advanced very far, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The law Kobach spearheaded in Kansas requires registrants to prove their citizenship by providing one of a series of documents, including birth certificates and passports. They are placed on the suspense list if they can’t.

Since late last year, those who did not complete the requirements for registration have been purged from the voter rolls after 90 days and had to begin the process over again.

About 14 percent of Kansans who tried to register between the law’s onset in 2013 and late 2015 failed to meet the requirement and went on the suspense list, according to documents filed in a lawsuit challenging the requirement.

“It’s created a system that is needlessly complex and very discouraging, particularly for young people,” said Steve Lopes, head of the Johnson County Voting Coalition, which helps register voters. “Now people just say, ‘Forget it, I’m not going to vote’.”

Kobach rejects accusations the law is designed to suppress voter turnout, particularly among minority and low-income voters who tend to back Democrats. He says it is aimed at stopping what he describes as a rampant problem of non-citizens voting in U.S. elections – even though there is little evidence of the problem.

“Every time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen. That’s real disenfranchisement, it’s happening every election and it’s happening in every state,” Kobach said, estimating thousands of non-citizens are on voting rolls in big states with large immigrant populations.

Citing that threat, Kobach convinced the Kansas legislature in 2015 to give him the power to prosecute voter fraud. But he has won just four misdemeanor illegal voting convictions, mostly involving people who owned at least two properties and cast votes in both locations. None involved non-citizens voting, although Kobach said more complaints will be filed.

U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson, who issued a May 17 order that Kansas begin to register more than 18,000 voters kept off the rolls by the proof of citizenship law, noted Kansas could identify only three non-citizens who voted between 2003 and the onset of the law in 2013.

 

RISK OF DISENFRANCHISEMENT

“The court cannot find that the state’s interest in preventing non-citizens from voting in Kansas outweighs the risk of disenfranchising thousands of qualified voters,” she wrote.

Of the 16,775 people on a late-April suspense list obtained by Reuters, more than half were ages 17 through 21, and more than 60 percent were age 25 or under. They were clustered in the high-population areas of Wichita, Topeka and the Kansas City suburbs, and the college towns of Lawrence and Manhattan.

About 41 percent were unaffiliated, more than the approximately 30 percent of registered Kansas voters who are unaffiliated. About 35 percent of those on the list were Democrats, compared to 24 percent of registered voters. Twenty-three percent were Republicans, compared to 45 percent of registered voters, according to a Reuters analysis of the data.

Younger voters, who are more likely to register as unaffiliated or Democrats, have a harder time getting the documents needed and have less patience with what has become an unwieldy process, said Michael Smith, a professor at Emporia State University who has studied the Kansas suspense list.

Kobach said it was “natural” that young people were heavily represented on the suspense list because they are the majority of new registrants. He rejected criticism that a proof of citizenship requirement created a higher barrier for registrants.

“If you define a barrier to voting as just having to do something before you vote, every state has that barrier, virtually every state requires proof of address,” he said.

In her court ruling, Robinson said the Kansas requirement conflicted with a federal law designed to make it easier to register while getting a driver’s license. She ordered Kansas on June 14 to begin registering Stricker and other residents who had submitted voter applications through state motor vehicle offices but failed to provide proof of citizenship.

They will be able to vote in federal elections for the presidency and U.S. Congress.

But Robinson’s ruling did not end the proof of citizenship requirement for Kansans who register by mail or at locations other than motor vehicle offices, and it left even those registering while getting a driver’s license ineligible to vote for state and local offices.

For now, that has created a chaotic two-tier system where some Kansans can vote in state elections and some cannot, some need to provide proof of citizenship and others do not, and many county election officials are uncertain how to proceed.

“It’s a complete mess,” said Marge Ahrens, co-president of the nonpartisan Kansas League of Women Voters.

 

Additional reporting by Grant Smith in New York; Editing by Jason Szep and Ross Colvin

Photo: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his Topeka, Kansas, U.S., office May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

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22 Comments

  1. Lynda Groom June 1, 2016

    Solutions in search of problems is the new platform of the republican party. This ever growing list shows the inability to tackle the real problems facing the nation, since trying to accomplish something of a positive nature requires hard work.

    Reply
    1. Daniel Jones June 1, 2016

      No, dear.
      Their platform’s a lot more concise these days. “Problems.”

      1. Lynda Groom June 2, 2016

        Yeah ‘problems’ and you fill in the blanks.

        1. Kristikdrozd June 2, 2016

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  2. charleo1 June 1, 2016

    If voting didn’t matter, the voice of the wealthy elite, and Party home of the homophobic bigot, and not the vast majority, wouldn’t try to legislate, and regulate your Right to vote out from under. Sure now they recognize Federal Papers. How long is that going to last with a bunch of States Right xenophobes?

    Reply
  3. Otto T. Goat June 1, 2016

    Dumbocraps too stupid to have proper ID.

    Reply
    1. PrecipitousDrop June 1, 2016

      And a hearty good day to you, too, Otto!
      Show me your papers.

    2. Daniel Jones June 1, 2016

      Proper ID, riiiight.
      Go to YouTube, look up what Arthur Dent went through on the matter of his house, and realize we’re on to this hogwash.
      If everyone did get this straightened out, the disenfranchisers would just create more hurdles, and this article reports how it’s already happened and is proven.
      Screw this goat thing, Autogrief, you haven’t changed a bit.

      1. Otto T. Goat June 1, 2016

        Go to DMV, get ID. It’s not complicated, liberaltard.

        1. Daniel Jones June 1, 2016

          Yes, it is, it is a needless complication, and they will do anything to make it more complicated.

          1. PrecipitousDrop June 1, 2016

            Do you carry your birth certificate in your wallet, Otto?
            How about your passport?
            No? Don’t try to vote in Kansas then.

        2. PrecipitousDrop June 1, 2016

          Read the article, Otto. He DID go to DMV. He got a drivers license, but the state did not process his voter registration because he didn’t “prove” citizenship.
          Now, let me see YOUR papers, Otto. Are you really a citizen?

          1. Otto T. Goat June 1, 2016

            It’s funny how mundane things are difficult for liberaltards.

          2. Daniel Jones June 1, 2016

            “Simple procedure”, as revealed in an excerpt from *The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy*…
            ~~~
            “But the plans were on display…”
            “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
            “That’s the display department.”
            “With a flashlight.”
            “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
            “So had the stairs.”
            “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
            “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was *on display* in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
            ~~~
            It’s MADE difficult by assholes that want to stifle the vote. And since you clearly support this, I have to lump you in with them.

    3. Hot Medusa June 1, 2016

      “Dumbocraps too stupid to have proper ID”

      Proving why supposed adults, who come out of the gate being laughably insulting and sounding like 5 year olds, are never taken seriously. Notice I did not say, “supposed intelligent adults.” By the way, it’s, “Dumbocraps [sic] ARE too stupid to have proper ID.” And they’re the stupid ones? You’re welcome for the lesson -_-

    4. pisces63 June 3, 2016

      Dumb idiot. I registered to vote in 1970 and we needed no ID in Ohio. When Obama ran, only 3, three, tres, trois states had them. When the black man won, they fell over themselves to instate them. IF I needed none in 1970 through 2008, I do not need one now. I have always had proper ID, too, even though unless you drove, the only one I had was my college ID in 1970 which was never needed to even open a bank account and a lot of these states will not take them, either. Your non point!!

  4. PrecipitousDrop June 1, 2016

    Richard Nixon understood that an educated electorate generally wouldn’t vote for Republican candidates. He began the roll back of financial support for schools and universities.
    Today’s Republicans understand that they lose elections when women, young people, and people of color turn out to vote. Gerrymandering and voter ID requirements are their plan to fix it.

    Reply
  5. Insinnergy June 1, 2016

    What retard boy Kobach doesn’t understand (apart from the obvious lie that this is a problem) is math.

    If an illegal votes, it cancels out the vote of one American… and reinforces the vote of another. If another illegal votes the other way (Most US elections seem to be an either/or choice between two people) then it reverses the above situation and everyone is neither disenfranchised, nor over-enfranchised.

    Given a reasonable random distribution of illegal votes (If there WERE any) you can expect the exact same result as if there were no illegal votes. i.e. No American’s vote is “canceled”.

    Unless…

    The immigrants would tend to vote more for one party than another.

    Which really exposes why he is doing this. Not that anyone should be in doubt of this by now.
    ….Let’s retranslate his statement in light of the above theory:

    “Every time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a Republican Voter.”

    There you have it. Whether or not it is happening… that’s his world view. Change the laws to ensure Republicans win.

    Reply
  6. A_Real_Einstein June 2, 2016

    What a demonstration of the absolute weakness of the Democatic party. How do people like Brownback and Kobach ever get elected and then reelected. Both had dismal approval ratings yet cruised to victory. The KS is terrible thanks to tax cuts to millionares and cuts in spending. The problem is the Democratic Party has no vision and no message. They try to run as moderates and push away progressive voters. We do not reach out to independents, have no backbone, run from our president and fear being labeled as liberal. Then we get this Bernie Sanders character. He has a message, a terrific of communication ability and a plan. Thousands of enthusiastic and progressive minded people who are saying enough is enough when it comes to our corrupt political system and the rigged economy. So the party goes out of its way to reject these saviors of liberalism. We are idiots.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron June 2, 2016

      It’s easy. In states like this you have “poll watchers” who can challenge potential democratic voters (anyone young or with brown or black skin) as not properly vetted to vote. Add to that the unholy matrimony between fundamentalist churches and the Republican party with their open contempt of the 1st Amendment freedom of Religion, and you have a formula where people are basically told by church leaders to vote for Republicans.
      Let’s add another thing for Kansas. Not sure if it is still in place, but all Kansas Public High Schools have been removed from the officially sanctioned list of secondary educational providers. Anybody who graduated from any public high school in that state was required to complete an independent entrance exam (in addition to SATs or CATs) to prove they had the minimum knowledge recommended for admission to college. Kansas’ changes to education requirements had theirs for English, Math, Science and History below the thresholds used in states that traditionally ranked at the bottom.

      1. pisces63 June 3, 2016

        Exactly. When I had to face a ‘poll’ watcher, white in my black voting poll, glaring at us as if we were felons, in 2008, I wonder why? It was then I decided to vote by mail. These white idiots and they were all white, even on the outside, even took fliers normally given out at every election I can remember and prohibited the distribution of them. They tried to limit what door voters could enter, though many like my sister and my daughter had children attending that school. Wrong! They tried with my sister and her husband and caught it. My brother-in-law is a cop and he ripped them a new one big time.

  7. Michael Mellema June 2, 2016

    This is what cowards have to do to keep control. The GOP is too gutless to have a fair election. They know they will always lose.

    Reply

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