A former Sedgwick County poll worker told a Senate committee Wednesday that she observed gross irregularities in the 2008 election — allegations that the county election commissioner said are not true.
Kathy Perry, a Wichitan who worked as a provisional ballot judge in 2008, testified as the Senate began consideration of a bill proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to require that voters show government ID to vote and that new voters prove their citizenship.
Kobach said House Bill 2067 — known as the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act — is needed to fight voting fraud in the state. The House passed it 83-36.
Testimony in the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections continues this morning.
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Perry was one of several poll workers from past elections who shared anecdotes Wednesday that they claimed show improprieties are taking place.
She testified that one woman showed up at the polling place wanting to cast a stack of 50 ballots that had already been filled out. She said the woman told her she had found those and about 450 others at a mall.
Perry said those ballots were not accepted, but that a host of other questionable ballots were.
"It was just very disturbing to let people cast provisional ballots you know are illegitimate without knowing if they will be detected," Perry said. "It was a very sad day for the elections workers."
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale, who did not attend the hearing, said none of the other poll workers at the site where Perry worked could confirm her assertion of a woman bringing in multiple ballots. He said there was a report of one woman who brought in one ballot.
He said that happens every election. People get a ballot mailed to them, forget to mail it back and then show up, with or without the ballot, at the polling place.
Gale said the procedure in such cases is to void the mail ballot and have the voter cast a provisional vote, which is held pending further checks to ensure that only one ballot is counted.
Gale said Perry called him shortly after the election with a number of complaints, including an assertion — which he said he almost immediately determined to be untrue — that a woman had registered three times using three variants of her name.
Perry repeated that assertion to the Senate committee Wednesday.
More IDs than voters?
Kobach testified briefly and began answering questions about the effect his proposed law would have on voter registration drives and poor and elderly voters who don't drive.
He said voters who are over 65 and have expired driver's licenses would be allowed to use those as a form of ID.
He said free IDs are available through a waiver to any legal voter who can show they can't afford a state ID, which costs $8. He added that there are more people in Kansas with IDs than there are potential voters.
"I have not yet found anyone who is a legal voter who doesn't have an ID," Kobach told the committee.
He also explained how people who change their name or address can demonstrate that change in order to vote.
Brian Newby, Johnson County election commissioner, said he thought his county could implement the ID requirement. He said he didn't expect a significant increase in workload and said financial costs would be minor.
"I do think voter confidence would be increased if voter ID were required," Newby said.
As he did when he addressed the House Elections Committee, Kobach used a list of 221 reported incidents of election crimes in Kansas between 1997 and 2010 as evidence of voter improprieties.
A Wichita Eagle investigation of the alleged Sedgwick County election irregularities on the list found that except for two immigrants who voted, all the allegations had either been disproved or appeared to be routine errors by voters and/or family members.
The state recently checked the voter registration roll against a list of temporary driver's licenses, which are issued to noncitizens so they can drive while legally in the country.
That sweep resulted in eight matches in Sedgwick County, but only one ballot cast, in a Wichita municipal primary.
That unqualified voter has entered a diversion program, and the single misdemeanor charge will be dismissed if she doesn't get in further trouble for a year, prosecutors said.
In a separate case, an immigrant voted in several elections, then turned in her voting record with her citizenship application, thinking it would help her chances.
Kobach has acknowledged in the past that the list contains only allegations and complaints, not proven instances of voting irregularities.
Wednesday, he said he thinks the report "significantly understates the incidence of election fraud in Kansas."
"Until my administration took office in January 2011, there was no reporting system or process for receiving reports of election fraud."
During House Elections Committee hearings earlier in the year, Kobach's proposal was challenged with claims that it would inhibit voter registration drives, would prove burdensome for people who move or change their names, and could be considered a poll tax due to the cost of a photo ID.