Politics & Government

May 8, 2012

Kansas House advances bill to move up voter citizenship requirement

Should Kansas start requiring newly registered voters to prove they are U.S. citizens in June or January?

The state House took action today, trying to force the Senate into a vote on whether to move up the deadline when new Kansas voters will be required to provide proof of citizenship to register.

The bill, House Substitute for Senate Bill 15, is based on plans proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

It would start requiring citizenship proof on June 15, rather than Jan. 1 as current law requires.

The overall effect would be that new voters would have to provide a birth certificate, passport or other less common citizenship documents to register for the August primary or the general election in November.

The House had previously passed the same proposal in another bill, but it stalled in a Senate committee, where senators said next month is too soon for a smooth transition to the new rules.

Substituting the proposal into a Senate bill, which is what the House did today, could make it easier for supporters to force a floor vote in the Senate.

The Department of Motor Vehicles, often the first point of contact for new voters, is installing computer systems to handle the scanning of citizenship documents and transmit them to the secretary of state's office. That system won't be up and running until August.

As an interim workaround, Kobach has proposed allowing the DMV to certify that new registrants have produced the proper documents. The actual copies would be provided to the secretary of state later when the new computer system is up and running.

The House amended that idea into the bill it is sending to the Senate.

Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, said senators still have concerns that the DMV is not yet ready to implement the proof of citizenship requirement.

"The last thing we want to do is mandate something that will deny voters the right to vote," he said.

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