Monday, August 6, 2012

Voter ID questions continue

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Topeka — A group opposed to the state law that requires Kansans to show a government-issued photo ID to vote will have volunteers at some polls Tuesday to see whether any voters are being deprived of their right to vote.

“This law was pushed forward without thinking things through,” said Louis Goseland, coordinator for the KanVote campaign.

On Tuesday, voters across the state will participate in Republican and Democratic party primaries.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach pushed the photo ID requirement through the Legislature, saying it was needed to protect against voter fraud. Critics say that incidents of voter fraud are almost nonexistent in Kansas and that the ID requirement will disenfranchise some elderly and minority voters who don’t have a photo ID.

There have been several local elections in Kansas since the photo requirement took effect at the start of the year. But this is the first statewide test.

Registered voters in Kansas who don’t have a photo ID can get a free one from the Division of Motor Vehicles if they have proof of identity and residence.

But a recent report cited problems. For instance, in downtown Wichita there is only one office to serve 160,700 eligible voters, which is eight times the customer base of the average office statewide.

In addition, 7,373 voting-age Kansans have no vehicle and live more than 10 miles from offices where they can get state-issued IDs, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

So far, the state has issued 32 free nondriver IDs, Kobach said. Douglas County has become the first county in the state to issue its own IDs for the purpose of voting.

The county has issued six of these, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said.

One elderly couple got the IDs, saying it was easier to walk to the Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets, than try to catch a bus to go to the Division of Motor Vehicles, 1035 N. Third St. in North Lawrence, to get the state ID, Shew said.

Shew said he believes most people are aware that a photo ID is required to vote, but some are confused about what forms of ID are acceptable.

The state website lists the valid photo IDs:

A driver’s license or nondriver’s identification card issued by Kansas or by another state or district of the United States
  • A concealed carry of handgun license issued by Kansas or a concealed carry of handgun or weapon license issued by another state or district of the United States.
  • A United States passport.
  • An employee badge or identification document issued by a municipal, county, state or federal government office.
  • A military identification document issued by the United States.
  • A student identification card issued by an accredited postsecondary institution of education in the state of Kansas.
  • A public assistance identification card issued by a municipal, county, state or federal government office.
  • An identification card issued by an Indian tribe.
Shew said some voters also are concerned over whether their current address has to match what is on the ID, or whether their ID will be accepted if they look different now from the photo.

Kobach has said pollworkers have been trained to allow for differences in appearance between the voter and the voter’s photo ID. A person’s current address does not have to match what is on the ID, Shew said.

Kobach said he doubted many voters would not have ID, but he said for those who don’t, they can still cast a provisional ballot and get the ID within the next few days to have their votes count.

But Ernestine Krehbiel of Wichita, president of the League of Women Voters, said some elderly and low-income Kansans would be unable to get the necessary documents together in time to get the state-issued ID. She said she spoke about this at a forum in March with Kobach, and Kobach held up his smartphone and said he could retrieve documents with the device.

Krehbiel said most elderly Kansans don’t have smartphones.