Prairie Politics

State agency spokeswoman calls League of Women Voters ‘left-wing’ agitators

Screenshot of John Hanna’s Facebook page
Screenshot of John Hanna’s Facebook page Courtesy of John Hanna/Facebook

A Brownback administration spokeswoman criticized the League of Women Voters on social media for promoting a college course aimed at registering to students to vote.

The League is partnering with professors at Washburn, Emporia State and Fort Hays State universities to develop a lesson plan on Kansas voting laws that can be taught over a day or a week with the goal of helping college students successfully register to vote and enabling them to help their peers do the same.

Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, panned the idea on Facebook.

“So it takes an entire semester to learn how to register to vote. Really?” de Rocha wrote on Facebook around noon on Monday. “Do we want these slow learners voting? Or is this a stealth course paid for by taxpayers to train left-wing ‘community organizers’ like the League of Women Voters on how to agitate?”

Asked about her comments, de Rocha said she had nothing to add. De Rocha’s work at KDADS, which provides services to the disabled community, does not overlap with election law or the state’s universities.

Carole Neal, co-president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, laughed when she heard of De Rocha’s comments and said the League is a nonpartisan organization.

“It’s not Republican or Democrat. And it’s not left-wing. I mean, we should want everybody at the polls,” she said.

The course comes in response to news that more than 40 percent of the people on the state’s suspended voters list are under 30 and that many live near college campuses. The list includes people who started to register to vote but did not complete the application; most did not submit the required proof of citizenship.

“With such a large number of university students being on that list, it is evident that something needs to be done so that our young people are able to vote,” Neal said. “This course can be taught in a day, or a week or a semester. But it is just one part of a curriculum.”

She explained many social studies courses lack an explanation of Kansas voting laws, which have been revamped in recent years to require photo ID at the polls and proof of citizenship to register. “It’s obvious that our students need to be educated on what our state laws are,” Neal said.

The League has repeatedly criticized the proof of citizenship requirement as hampering efforts to register new voters. Many Republican officials say that it’s essential to prevent noncitizens from voting.

De Rocha made her comment in response to Associated Press reporter John Hanna posting a story on his Facebook page. Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, also posted comments questioning the need for such a course.

“How hard is it to fill out a simple form and, if you don't have it handy, have someone take a picture of a birth certificate and e-mail it to you?” Barker wrote.

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

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