The ridiculousness of Kansas' new voting regulations continues to reach new bounds. The Secure and Fair Elections Act, intended to prevent voter fraud from taking place, has resulted in approximately 12,000 legal residents unable to take part in the electoral process.
You read that correctly: 12,000. That is how many Kansans currently classified as in a suspended state of voter registration because they have yet to produce proof of citizenship. Lest we forget, the election laws were passed overwhelmingly in 2011 in response to 75 reported cases of fraud that took place between 1998 and 2008. None of the complaints were serious enough to result in a conviction. Zero.
Nonetheless, Secretary of State Kris Kobach was able to convince legislators and residents alike the threat of undocumented aliens wreaking havoc on one of our fundamental acts of civic duty was real. The governor signed the S.A.F.E. Act into law and it took effect Jan. 1 of this year.
Kobach had hoped that linking the Department of Revenue's database of driver's licenses would allow easy coordination with the voter registration process. Unfortunately, a system upgrade of Revenue's hardware has been anything but smooth. And these 12,000 individuals who produced driver's licenses as their proof of citizenship have yet to be granted the right to vote.
In an effort to assist these Kansans, Kobach pleaded with the state Rules and Regulations Board this week to at least allowing them to cast provisional ballots. The board denied his request.
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, and member of the board, said allowing the 12,000 to vote provisionally would merely postpone the need to produce a birth certificate or valid passport. That action would need to take place before the vote tally was certified -- or the vote wouldn't count.
"I don't believe a large percentage of the population knows what casting a provisional ballot means," Schmidt said. "They believe it is going to count. Sadly for these 12,000-plus individuals it will not count unless they take further action, and I think that is disingenuous at best."
We would have to agree with that assessment. We also recognize that the law, regardless of its need or utility, demands that these first-time voters need to show the necessary paperwork in order to cast a ballot.
The secretary of state likely will simply wait for these Kansans to complete the required steps. While justifiable at some level, we would encourage Kobach to be more pro-active.
His office is aware of who these people are, and where they live. Letters clearly articulating the proper steps to take would be much more beneficial than waiting to see what happens.
It's obvious these individuals want to vote, but remain unaware of the state's burdensome regulations.
It is incumbent on Kobach to bring the 12,000 into the electoral process, even if it results in 12,000 votes for whomever challenges the secretary's re-election bid. The S.A.F.E. Act is a farce, and Kobach should be held accountable at the polls.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry