David Rundle: Promoter of rights a suspended voter

06/15/2014 12:00 AM

08/06/2014 8:32 AM

Michael Nucci chairs the governmental affairs committee at Timbers, an apartment community for people with disabilities where he and I live. The committee tracks proposed laws affecting the disabled and programs such as KanCare. Though never endorsing any party or candidate, the committee encourages residents of Timbers to vote.

That’s a bit ironic, because Nucci is one of more than 18,000 Kansans on the state’s suspended-voters list.

Nucci was born in Highland, N.Y., in the middle of the state’s apple country. At age 5, he had meningitis. The next year, he developed seizures. His epilepsy continues to this day and prevents him from working. But Nucci has several college degrees. He has always been involved in promoting disability rights.

Living in several states, he has always voted. When he got his own place at Timbers, he went to register but could not.

According to the state’s voter ID law, drafted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, you must present a birth certificate when you register to vote.

When Nucci goes to a government office, he must arrange transportation. Most Kansans with disabilities, as well as many poor and elderly wanting to register to vote, face that problem. People who can’t drive and live in a rural area may have a great deal of difficulty getting to their county courthouse.

Once there, people may find their paperwork is not in order and they may have to jump through many more hoops and make a few more trips before they can exercise their right to vote.

I call voting a right. If you call something a right, you shouldn’t have to prove you deserve it. But others see it as your duty that you do. Most of these people would become livid if we’d applied that rule to gun ownership, which I don’t advocate.

I see voting as important to every valid citizen regardless of race, creed, gender or ideology. Some Kansans have easier access than others to transportation or the needed proof of citizenship to register and vote.

Kobach wants to keep it that way, even going so far as suing the federal government to make its registration form conform to his. He won initially in U.S. District Court, but the federal government and voting-rights groups appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which placed a stay on the District Court’s ruling.

With the case still pending, Kobach says he is instituting a two-tier voting system in Kansas in which those who registered using the federal form can vote only in the federal races, not the state and local elections. Does Kobach want to run elections or a circus act?

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