Voting law is what’s ‘silly’

08/28/2014 7:06 PM

08/29/2014 12:06 AM

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said a demand that he release his income tax returns was “silly.” Maybe so. But what is really silly – and irritating – are the hoops that Kobach made a 92-year-old woman – and many others – jump through in order to exercise their right to vote.

Kobach’s Democratic challenger, Jean Schodorf, released her past three tax returns Wednesday and called on Kobach to do the same. She contends that Kobach, an attorney, spends too much time moonlighting on immigration issues, and she apparently thinks the tax returns will reflect that.

Kobach responded that the Kansas secretary of state has never had to release tax returns before. He also said that a form officials must file disclosing substantial financial interests should be sufficient documentation of his outside income – though the form, which is posted on the Secretary of State’s Office website, doesn’t include income figures.

“It’s sort of intrusive to put out your tax returns for everybody to see,” Kobach said. “So I think it’s just a silly request.”

As it happened, on the same day Schodorf was releasing her returns, Kobach was presiding over a meeting of the State Elections Board. Evelyn Howard of Shawnee, who was born in rural Minnesota in 1922 at a midwife’s house and does not have a birth certificate, appealed to the board to allow her to vote.

A state law that Kobach championed requires people registering for the first time in Kansas to prove they are U.S. citizens. Because Howard moved to Kansas in 2013, she fell under the new requirement – even though she has voted all her adult life.

After Howard submitted as evidence a family Bible, which included a registry of births, and early census records, the Elections Board decided she had proven her citizenship and could register.

Howard’s situation is not that uncommon. Quite a few older Americans never had a birth certificate. Many others, both young and old, don’t have official copies of their birth certificate. And if they were born in other states, obtaining the document can be costly and time consuming. Also, women who are married and have changed their names may have to obtain additional documentation.

For many people, it’s not as simple as sitting on your couch and pressing send on your smartphone, as Kobach likes to portray it.

It’s no wonder that more than 18,000 Kansans have their voter registrations “in suspense.”

What’s particularly irritating is that the proof-of-citizenship requirement is a solution in search of a problem. There is no evidence that illegal immigrants voting is a serious concern. In fact, it doesn’t make sense that they would even try to vote. Why would they risk being caught committing a felony when the odds that their vote would make the difference in an election are remote?

Rather than deterring illegal immigrants, Kobach’s rules are ensnaring senior citizens.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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