Letter: Let’s go the extra mile for the right for Kansans to vote

Dear Editor:

The Kansas Legislature, encouraged by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has gone a long way to make sure our voting polls are safe from voter fraud. Now, we’re asking the legislature to go that same extra mile to protect the rights of legal Kansas citizens to vote.

What we’ve found is that the process to catch a few fraudulent voters has deterred more than 36,000 Kansans from participating in what I believe is one of their greatest rights as a citizen.

Last year, Sec. Kobach announced plans to dispense of 36,000 voter registrations that were being held in suspense because the individuals failed to turn in their proof of citizenship. Most of these individuals were young first time voters who we should be encouraging to participate in the process, instead, we’re turning them away.

What we’re proposing is a workaround within the confines of the SAFE Act, the Kansas law that requires proof of citizenship. Currently, Kansas closes voter registration 20 days before an election. We’re proposing the adoption of a same day voter registration bill, and here’s how it helps.

Many of these young people sign up at voter registration drives held at their colleges, churches or at community events where they most likely don’t have their proof of citizenship readily available. It’s the second step, going back to turn in the proof of citizenship that’s the hang up. What the Same Day Voter Registration Bill does is allow these young people, on election day or advance voting days, to show up at the poll with their voter registration form, ID and proof of citizenship. They can register, provide proof of citizenship and vote all in one step.

With today’s hectic schedule, who couldn’t appreciate and benefit from this one step process?

Same day voter registration has been practiced in United States since the 1970s. Currently 15 states plus the District of Columbia have allowed same day voter registration. In those states, voter participation runs consistently 12 percent higher than states without same day voter registration.

Note, the bill does not ignore the SAFE Act; it works within the SAFE Act.

Other states, and Kansas, that establish arbitrary voter registration cut-off dates, dissuade participation in the voting process when people are most excited about them. This bill also helps individuals with limited transportation by allowing them to take care of all of their voting actions in one trip.

Without reading the bill, Sec. Kobach and several legislators, proclaimed the bill, “a recipe for fraud,” saying people could run from poll to poll and vote. If they had read the bill first, they would find numerous steps built in to address these concerns. The bill lays out an extensive process to set aside ballots of individuals who register and vote on the same day to check for issues like votes cast in multiple locations.

Again, I think it’s time we do something “for versus against” legal Kansas citizens by doing all we can to encourage their lawful participation in their greatest right as a citizen, their right to vote!

If you support this measure this measure, please email your local legislators or call the chair of the elections committees. In the Kansas House that’s Rep. Mark Kahrs at [email protected] and the Senate Elections and Ethics Chair is Mitch Holmes at [email protected].

Bonita Gooch
The Kansas Black Leadership Council

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