Eagle editorial: Voting ‘cure is worse’

07/15/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

In signing off Friday on Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s galling plan to let some Kansans vote in some races and not others on Aug. 5, a judge concluded that “the cure is worse than the disease.” That’s an apt description of the law that Kobach sold as a remedy for voter fraud but that has created a barrier to voting for 19,500 Kansans.

The American Civil Liberties Union wanted to block Kobach from treating voters’ ballots differently depending on whether they registered using the state or federal form.

Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis probably chose the least confusing option of letting Kobach’s nutty two-tiered plan proceed while the larger legal battle plays out in federal court. As he said, if he forced election officials to count all votes from both kinds of registrants and Kobach later prevailed in court, it would be “a mess” at that point to try to identify and discount the unlawful votes.

So the judge called for the 200 or so affected voters who used the federal form to be notified that unless they prove their U.S. citizenship, only their votes for Congress will count on Aug. 5.

As crazy as that sounds, it still does nothing for the more than 19,000 people who used the state form but whose voting rights are in suspense until they produce a birth certificate, passport or other accepted proof of citizenship.

Kobach and other state leaders may be unconcerned about these Kansans, as if their difficulty in complying with the paperwork mandate makes their citizenship suspect and their voting rights optional. But others in the state do care.

To his credit, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said last week that his office would help pay to obtain out-of-state birth certificates for the few suspended voters who said they cannot afford them.

And Kobach’s two opponents, Republican Scott Morgan and Democrat Jean Schodorf, are working hard to raise Kansans’ awareness and ire about the appalling fact that nearly 20,000 of their neighbors have tried to register to vote since 2013 but been hung up by the documentation hurdle.

As Morgan, a Lawrence attorney and businessman, told The Eagle editorial board last week, Kobach has shown no evidence that any election in Kansas has been changed by voter fraud, let alone by the votes of undocumented immigrants. Morgan rightly called it a “tragedy” that more than 18 percent of the total attempted registrations since Jan. 1, 2013, remain incomplete.

Tuesday is the voter-registration deadline for the primary, and suspended voters have until Aug. 4 to finalize their registrations so they can vote the next day. The more who do so, the better, because the surest path out of the disaster that is the proof-of-citizenship requirement is via the ballot box.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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