Eagle editorial: Have your say at polls

08/05/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 2:46 PM

Tuesday’s exercise of the right and responsibility to vote will bring welcome relief, shutting up the politicians and their commercials and robocalls at least for a while. But voting is much more than a mute button: It is a powerful and singular act of citizenship that many have died defending.

Many voters will be understandably tempted to skip the election because of a scarcity of contested primaries. But what Kansas Republicans do in the U.S. Senate primary and 4th Congressional District will have national implications. Because no Democrats filed in one Sedgwick County District Court race and three area Kansas House districts, Republicans alone will decide those contests Tuesday for all voters.

This Election Day stands out for some other reasons:

• It finds Kansas breaking new ground in vote prevention, to be joined by Arizona later this month, as a Wall Street Journal article noted. More than 18,000 Kansans who’ve tried to register to vote since January 2013 won’t be allowed to vote Tuesday for lack of citizenship documentation, and about 200 who registered to vote using the federal registration form will be able to vote only in the federal races. “There is a very real problem with aliens being registered to vote,” claimed Secretary of State Kris Kobach to the Journal. But he and every legislator who voted for this paperwork hurdle have to know that its prime effect will be to block citizens from voting.
• It is the first statewide election since Attorney General Derek Schmidt advised election officials last fall that guns now have to be allowed in certain polling places. A church, public school or other facility that bans concealed carry the rest of the year won’t need to allow guns on Election Day. But concealed-carry permit holders will be able to bring their firearms to the polls in public buildings where concealed carry is now allowed regularly. This seems a potentially confusing change, as somebody who displayed a firearm at a Kansas poll in the past could be prosecuted for voter intimidation.
• It will put Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman and her staff to their first real test since the debacles of 2012. Extremely low turnout in the 2013 municipal and school board primary and general elections (5 and 6.19 percent, respectively) mean the county will be waiting Tuesday night to see whether Lehman has the office’s act together. There had better not be any flashbacks to August 2012, when precinct totals were wrong early on and final tallies didn’t come until 11:15 p.m., or to November 2012, when the confusing first results weren’t released until nearly 11 p.m.

Thanks to those who’ve already made their choices via early voting. The rest of us have until 7 p.m. Tuesday to have our say.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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