Politics & Government

Proposed rule gives voters 90-day deadline to show proof of citizenship

Secretary of State Kris Kobach says many people on the suspended voter list have moved out of the state and that counties are wasting money by continuing to send them reminders of their incomplete registration status.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach says many people on the suspended voter list have moved out of the state and that counties are wasting money by continuing to send them reminders of their incomplete registration status. File photo

Voters will have to provide proof of citizenship within 90 days under a new regulation being pushed for by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The state currently requires that Kansans provide proof of their U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote. Voters who fail to do so are placed on a suspended voters list.

That list ballooned to more than 20,000 voters during this past election. A proposed rule change would cut that number dramatically.

If a county election official decided that a voter’s application was incomplete, the voter would have 90 days to provide the missing documents or information. Counties would be instructed to cancel a voter’s application after 90 days if the missing materials are not provided and the voter’s name would be removed from the suspended voter list.

Michael Smith, a political science professor at Emporia State University, accused the secretary of state on Twitter of trying to “purge” the suspended voter list.

Kobach said the proposed rule change was a common-sense, cost-saving measure. He said that many of the people on the suspended voter list have moved out of the state and that counties are wasting money by continuing to send them reminders of their incomplete registration status.

“It’s completely common sense,” Kobach said. “Otherwise the counties just waste money sending reminders on to people who have moved on and are living at a different address.”

Kobach noted that Georgia and Arizona have similar policies in effect as part of their proof-of-citizenship laws.

“You have to give the person a reasonable amount of time … but at some point you have to say, OK, we’re not just going to keep sending you reminders,” he said.

Kobach said people can begin a new voting application if they miss the 90-day deadline.

Marge Ahrens, co-president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, said the size of the suspended voter list indicates how difficult it has become to register to vote in Kansas. “We have terrible barriers to voting and to voter registration in our state and they are unnecessary,” she said.

Another proposed rule change would allow people who have already provided proof of citizenship in Kansas to move to another county in the state and re-register to vote without providing citizenship documents again.

“Obviously, it doesn’t make sense if a person’s shown their proof of citizenship in Kansas after 2013, and they move counties, that they have to show their proof of citizenship again,” Kobach said.

These proposed changes will be discussed at a public hearing on Sept. 2 at Memorial Hall in Topeka before they go before the state’s Rules and Regulations Board for approval.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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