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Leaving some in 'suspense'

Published on -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

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Anyone else a little curious about what happens when maybe 17,000 or so Kansans show up to vote in the Aug. 5 primary election and are told they don't really need to bother with most of the ballot?

Huh?

Yes, there still are approximately 17,000 Kansans who are in "suspense," and that means they haven't proven to the satisfaction of the Kansas Legislature and governor they are sure-enough Americans.

So, after a last-ditch effort by the American Civil Liberties Union last week in Shawnee County Court, Kansas' new voting law still is the law of the state. That means for voters who have moved within the state, or maybe moved to the state, and who haven't proven they are official U.S. citizens by producing a birth certificate or passport or naturalization documents, they just can vote on federal offices.

Which means most of their ballot won't be counted, at least for those state offices such as governor or attorney general or secretary of state or even state treasurer. Oh, and members of the Legislature who deal with Kansas law? Nope, votes for those lawmakers won't count either. That might move a primary election or two.

That's the law, so far, and it'll be good, or at least in effect, for the primary election.

What might make that time you spend in line waiting to sign in and get your ballot interesting is if someone in front of you is in "suspense."

Those "suspense" voters' ballots will go into an envelope and be handled specially through the process. Somewhere in the back room or maybe at the courthouse, those "suspense" voters who don't show up within about a week of election day with proof of U.S. citizenship will have their non-federal office votes ignored in ringing up the final tally.

Anyone thinking what's going to happen face-to-face when the poll attendants tell someone who has been a voter for years, and has moved or otherwise had to re-register, that most of his or her votes won't be counted?

We're thinking the discussion in the generally quiet and respectful voting place might change in a hurry. Probably a little more serious discussion than when you send a drink back to the bar because it was made with vodka rather than the gin you ordered. Probably a little less serious than when a cop asks you to stand on one foot and touch your nose.

You see, for federal voting registration, you just pledge -- subject to perjury -- you're an American. For Kansas voting registration, you're some sorta foreigner meddling with state elections until you prove you're not.

But it's not like this is some sort of last-minute shenanigan. Those potential voters have been written to and telephoned for months to bring in proof of citizenship, and you have to figure if those people really want to vote in all the elections, they might have responded. If you have, say, your birth certificate on the nightstand, you can take a picture of it with your cellphone and email it in.

There likely are some who just don't have proof of citizenship handy, and there likely are some who just don't think they should have to prove it. When was the last time you had to prove you weren't the guy or gal who robbed the gas station?

Figure that depending on who talks to their legislators about it, the proof of citizenship business might be replaced with a legally binding certification of citizenship -- subject to prosecution for perjury if you're lying. Or, maybe not. While it might make primary voting more interesting than usual, this whole deal probably isn't finished yet.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co.

of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.

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