Last week’s election seemed to go smoothly across Kansas. Some of the new Real ID driver’s licenses didn’t scan correctly at polling places, but all in all it was a quiet off-year election.
Except for a mail ballot that seemingly contradicts itself.
Monday’s canvass of votes had to be frustrating for Sedgwick County commissioners. They threw out 23 ballots, something they didn’t want to do, because disabled voters didn’t (or couldn’t) sign the envelope for their ballot.
Without a signature on the affidavit, state law says the ballot is void. But also on the envelope is another affidavit for an assistant to sign, attesting he or she marked the voter’s ballot under the voter’s instructions.
It stands to reason if someone assisted marking the ballot, they should sign and the voter shouldn’t sign the other affidavit. But, unbeknownst to the voter, not signing your own mail ballot voids the ballot.
Even if you can’t sign because of disability.
County Counselor Eric Yost called it “impossible to do right.” Commission chairman Dave Unruh called it “a stupid rule.”
Stupid? yes. Correctable? yes. And soon, please.
Bryan Caskey, elections director for the secretary of state’s office, said the law for the signed envelopes has been in place since at least the 1990s.
And no one has raised this issue until now?
The law should be amended so a person assisting a disabled voter can attest he or she helped and (an important “and”) the voter is unable to sign the envelope. No disabled voter should be penalized because of a silly, fixable technicality.
The conflicting mail ballot affidavits become yet another item for the Legislature to take up come January. Unlike school funding and prison problems, at least this issue should cost only the price of new envelopes.
Oh, one more point from Monday’s mess. Caskey said many disabled Kansas voters are on a permanent list to receive mail ballots without having to request them each election.
Shouldn’t we all be able to be on that list? Making voting simpler should be a priority for election offices, and making mail-ballot voters do paperwork for every primary and every general election seems like an unnecessary obstacle.