Thursday, June 2, 2016

"It's A Complete Mess" - New Voter Registration Law In Kansas Leaves Thousands Of Young Voters "Suspended"

A law in Kansas is creating chaos among voters, especially younger voters in the state. In 2013, Kansas passed a law that requires residents to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and if it isn't provided, the registration is put in suspense, leaving residents unable to vote. While you must be a US citizen to vote in American elections, most states allow those who register to simply sign a statement affirming they are citizens and provide a driver's license number, Social Security number, or other proof of residence according to Reuters.
Of course the story is a bit more nuanced, as US District Court Judge Julie Robinson recently issued an order to put voters back on the rolls that had been suspended for not providing proof of citizenship, providing that the registration was done at a DMV. Those who did not register at a DMV, by mail for example, were not included in the order, and thus still had to provide proof of citizenship. And finally, as if the situation is not confusing enough, Robinson's order only applied to federal elections for the presidency and US Congress, it left out voting at the state and local levels, meaning in order to vote locally residents would still have to provide proof of citizenship.
Confused? So are a lot of younger voters in the state, who have been been suspended for not providing proof of citizenship.
Of the 16,774 people on a late-April suspense list obtained by Reuters, more than half were ages 17-21, and more than 60 percent were age 25 or under. Suspended voters were clustered in the high-population areas of Wichita, Topeka and the Kansas City suburbs, and the college towns of Lawrence and Manhattan.
About 41% weren't affiliated with a party, 35% were Democrats, 23% were Republicans, and 1% Libertarian.

"It's created a system that is needlessly complex and very discouraging, particularly for young people. Now people just say 'forget it, I'm not going to vote'." said Steve Lopes, head of the Johnson County Voting Coalition which helps register voters.
The man primarily responsible for the law, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is adamant that the law will help keep illegals from voting, despite little evidence of the problem even existing in the first place. In Judge Robinson's order, it was noted that Kansas could identify only three non-citizens who voted between 2003 and the onset of the law in 2013.
"The court cannot find that the state's interest in preventing non-citizens from voting in Kansas outweighs the risk of disenfranchising thousands of qualified voters" Robinson said.
To which Kobach retorted: "Every time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a US citizen. That's the real disenfranchisement, it's happening every election and it's happening in every state."
Unfortunately for Kobach, upon being given the power by the Kansas legislature in 2015 to prosecute voter fraud, Kobach has won just four misdemeanor illegal voting convictions, and none of them involved non-citizens.
Michael Smith, a professor at Emporia State University said that "younger voters, who are more likely to register as unaffiliated or Democrats, have a harder time getting the documents needed and have less patience with what has become an unwieldy process."
Kobach, who has been affectionately dubbed "the dark lord" by some of his colleagues, said "if you define barrier to voting as just having to do something before you vote, every state has that barrier, virtually every state requires proof of address."
For now, there is a chaotic two-tier system where some Kansans can vote in state elections and some cannot, some need to provide proof of citizenship and others do not, and many county election officials are uncertain how to proceed. "It's a complete mess" said Marge Ahrens, co-president of the nonpartisan Kansas League of Women Voters.
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A complete mess indeed, although par for the course when it comes to the state of politics in America. Oh, and we forgot to mention that Kris Kobach has endorsed The Donald, citing his number one issue in the election as being... wait for it... immigration.


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