Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Documents to be used to reduce voter registrations in ‘suspense’

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — Here's another twist in the tale of the more than 18,000 Kansans whose voter registrations have been put on hold because of lack of proof of U.S. citizenship.

Election officials reported Monday they are using a recent release of documents to whittle down the number of registrations in what is called "suspense."

The Kansas Department of Revenue recently sent to the Kansas Secretary of State's Office approximately 6,100 Division of Motor Vehicle records that contained citizenship documents, according to a memo from the Kansas Secretary of State's Office.

"These records should reduce the number of 'suspense' records due to lack of proof of citizenship," the memo stated.

The Secretary of State's Office did not have information on how many incomplete voter registrations these documents cleared up, but Douglas County received its batch of 438 records Monday afternoon. It processed 50 of the records and was able to finalize the registrations of 16 people, according to Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew.

"We are working through the remaining records," Shew said.

A new law took effect Jan. 1 that requires people who are registering to vote to show proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate.

Supporters of the law, including Secretary of State Kris Kobach, minimized the hurdle this would produce, but 18,054 voter registrations are incomplete because of the lack of proof of citizenship.

Some have alleged that people who have applied for driver's licenses and voter registration have fully complied with the legal requirement for both but have been thwarted by a faulty computer system.

Voting rights groups have threatened to sue Kobach, saying he has defied a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an Arizona case by continuing to demand documentary proof of citizenship from people using the federal voter registration form, which doesn't require a document.

Kobach has discussed the possibility of creating a two-tiered voting system in which people who registered to vote using the federal form could vote only for president and Congress, while people who showed proof of citizenship could vote in all elections.

Revenue Department spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said the process of moving thousands of documents to the secretary of state's office was worked out recently with the department's private contractor MorphoTrust.

"As you know, in 2008, everyone getting a new Kansas driver's license has been required to show proof of legal presence such as a birth certificate, passport or green card. In 2011, the department began scanning those documents," Koranda said in an email.

"The department isn't pulling out information for people who registered to vote specifically, we actually don't keep records of who registered to vote in our offices. We are working with MorphoTrust to go through our historic data, all the records collected since 2011, and convert it into a readable format that can then be sent securely to the Secretary of State's office.

"We are not sending over personal information, simply the information already sent over for voter registration purposes and verifying what document we captured. The Secretary of State's office can then use the information to help complete voter registrations," Koranda said.

The newest development was revealed by Kevin Cronister, the Revenue Department's chief information officer, when he was being questioned by state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, during a meeting of the House-Senate Information Technology Committee.