Legislation introduced by Rep. Brett Parker, (D) Overland Park, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would make it easier for non-citizens to vote in Kansas by removing the proof of citizenship requirement when first registering to vote. HB 2220 also allows people to register on election day and allows applications for advance voting to be placed on a permanent advance ballot list; that means someone could register to vote without ever appearing in person or having to provide proof of citizenship.
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach calls that a “perfect recipe for voter fraud.”
“Same day voter registration allows anybody to show up at the polls and cast a ballot before their citizenship or their address can be verified,” he said.
Lauren Bonds, the interim director of the ACLU of Kansas, says Election Day Registration increased voter turnout in the 19 states that enacted it. “In fact, those states have the highest voter turnout in the nation, roughly 12 percent higher than states, such as Kansas, without election day registration,” she said.
In 2016, 59.2 percent of Kansas voters turned out to cast ballots in the presidential election. According to an ACLU study, that puts Kansas at 34th in the country in terms of voter turnout. Kobach says Kansas is number one in the country for voter security.
“This bill would move Kansas from our position as number one in the nation with the most secure elections to the bottom of the pack with some of the least secure elections in the country,” he said. “It allows people to easily drive across the state line to cast a ballot if there’s a close race in Kansas that non-residents want to vote in.”
Bonds says same-day voter registration would virtually eliminate the need for provisional ballots, and eligible voters would not be turned away simply because they aren’t listed in a registration book.
“Election Day registration should alleviate any fears about voter fraud–though virtually all Kansas election officials reject the notion that such fraud is even a minor concern,” she said.
As Secretary of State, Kobach championed laws to ensure only U.S. citizens can vote in Kansas. He also increased efforts to eliminate other things like double voting. The ACLU calls Kobach’s voter security initiative, adopted in 2013, the “papers please law.”
The organization successfully filed a federal lawsuit to stop Kansas counties from requiring people to prove they are U.S. citizens in order to register to vote. That decision is under appeal.
HB 2220 would eliminate the proof of citizenship requirement from state law, regardless of the outcome of the case. The bill didn’t receive a hearing this legislative session. It’s unlikely to reach the House floor, which means lawmakers probably won’t debate the issue this year.
The Kansas Secretary of State’s office oversees elections, and Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who took office in January, says HB 2220 would have made fundamental changes to Kansas elections.
“Thoughtful time and deliberation are essential to implementing substantial changes to election operations,” Schwab said. “We have asked lawmakers to refrain from making any major election policy changes to give us time to visit with county clerks on the impact of such policies would have on their abilities to ensure Kansas elections remain safe and secure.”