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Candidate: Daughter told she didn’t provide proof of citizenship to vote

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Monday, June 23, 2014, at 12:20 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, July 12, 2014, at 9:15 a.m.

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A candidate for secretary of state said Monday that his daughter received a letter informing her that she had failed to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote even though she uploaded a picture of her passport to the state’s website.

Scott Morgan is challenging Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the Republican primary and has been an outspoken critic of the state’s proof of citizenship law and its implementation.

His daughter, Grace Morgan, an 18-year-old student at the University of Kansas, received a letter Saturday from the Douglas County Clerk’s Office that she had failed to provide the required documents to prove U.S. citizenship, Morgan said. She had registered online through a state website.

The Secretary of State’s Office later said that Grace Morgan had submitted the necessary proof and was officially registered as of Monday, but that there was a delay in getting the documentation to Douglas County.

Jamie Shew, Douglas County clerk, confirmed in a phone call Monday that Grace Morgan received a letter and that her file showed that the county had not received any documentation from the DMV.

“I can just deal with whatever gets uploaded to us,” Shew said.

But minutes later Shew called The Eagle to say that he had been informed by his staff that the Secretary of State’s Office had sent his office an electronic copy of Morgan’s passport at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

“We did receive it (proof of citizenship) this morning,” Shew said. “Now we received the registration on the 18th. We don’t typically wait. Once we receive that voter registration if we don’t have citizenship to me it’s really important that we reach out to those people as soon possible, so we sent the letter as soon as we got the registration.”

Shew said his staff was unsure how common it is for the county to receive registration information several days before it receives proof of citizenship.

Bryan Caskey, the assistant state election director in the Secretary of State’s Office, addressed the confusion in a phone call.

He said that the registration information is processed through a different database than the proof of citizenship information, and in this case it was processed and sent to the county more quickly.

“In this case she did everything correctly. The county was super efficient in sending out the notice, saying they received the data and there was no documentation attached. … And then this morning they got the actual proof of citizenship document,” Caskey said. He said he confirmed that Grace Morgan was now listed as registered.

“I wouldn’t say this is common. There’s just a natural few days it takes to get all the information to the county at the same time. Sometimes it can happen within one to three days. Sometimes it can take a little bit longer,” Caskey said. He said the speed can depend on the time of day a person registers and how efficiently the DMV’s technology processes are. “There’s multiple databases involved and it just takes a little bit of time to verify that the document goes with the applicant.”

Scott Morgan said he was surprised that the situation was resolved so quickly after he began posting about it on social media.

“How it happened to my daughter and then was miraculously resolved ... it just makes me wonder how many people out there whose father isn’t running for secretary of state against the incumbent are left in Never Never Land,” he said Monday afternoon.

He praised the Douglas County Clerk’s Office for ensuring that voters are informed quickly about their registration status. But he questioned the Secretary of State’s Office’s claims that the system had worked properly in this case.

“I have a different definition of what the system working is,” Morgan said. “In a system designed to help people vote, you would never be making any comment like the county clerk was too efficient.”

He said the complexity of the process could dissuade young people from voting.

“It’s all these things that the average 18-year-old is just going to say, ‘the heck with it,’ ” Morgan said. He said that the online system repeatedly froze as his daughter went through the registration process. “And it’s just phenomenal that we think it’s okay to put these kind of hurdles in front of these people who are trying to register to vote.

Assistant Secretary of State Brad Bryant pushed back against Morgan’s criticisms.

“I think of some of the things we’ve done electronically in recent years … are really addressing expectations of sort of a younger generation of voters,” Bryant said.

“They expect to do things, including transactions with the government, electronically. They expect that. And she did it successfully. She did it correctly. And the system really worked,” Bryant said. “It’s just that like we said there’s a couple of days delay in a lot of these in getting all the information packaged up and sent to the right source.”

Kobach has repeatedly said that it is much easier to satisfy the citizenship requirement than critics say it is. He told The Eagle his office “bent over backwards to make it easy to comply with this” in an interview earlier this month.

Morgan said his family couldn’t help but laugh upon receiving the letter, joking that many people would think it was something he made up for the campaign. But he took a photograph of his daughter holding her letter and posted it on Facebook as proof.

“When you get it, you laugh about it, because it’s so absurd. But then the sad thing is, the absurdity is the reality of what we’ve created here in Kansas to protect ourselves from something that doesn’t exist,” Morgan said.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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