- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A scan of Kansas birth records will allow election officials to validate voter registrations for more than 7,700 people who hadn’t complied with a proof-of-citizenship law, Secretary of State Kris Kobach told legislators Wednesday.

Kobach said he expected the registrations to be confirmed within a week - allowing the prospective voters to legally cast ballots. The list of voter registrations on hold, about 20,200 as of Tuesday, will shrink by 38 percent.

But Kobach’s critics immediately noted that almost 12,500 registrations would remain on hold because the other new voters haven’t yet provided a birth certificate, passport or other documentation of their U.S. citizenship, as required by a law that took effect last year. The figure is larger than the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimated 2012 populations for 69 of the state’s 105 counties, and if such voters go to the polls before documenting their citizenship, their ballots will be set aside and left uncounted.

The Republican secretary of state championed the proof-of-citizenship law, and he gave an update on its administration during a meeting of the GOP-dominated House Elections Committee. Late last month, Kobach’s office and the state Department of Health and Environment, which maintains birth records, signed an agreement setting up the process for checking them while protecting privacy.

“The first batch was run, literally, in the last few days,” Kobach said after the meeting.

Kobach pushed the proof-of-citizenship requirement as a way to keep non-citizens, particularly immigrants in the U.S. illegally, from voting. And he told the committee that in the past several elections, his office has documented cases in which five non-citizens voted, at least one of them multiple times.

But critics of the law contend the problem is too small to justify putting the registrations of thousands of citizens on hold and suggest the law will suppress turnout. Kansas has more than 1.7 million registered voters.

Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita, the presumed Democratic challenger to Kobach’s re-election this year, issued a statement saying that Kobach was making “some minimal effort” to clean up a “mess.”

“It sounds to me like Kobach is saying ‘I stabbed you in the back three times, here’s one Band-Aid,’” Schodorf said in a statement.

The proof-of-citizenship law has become the biggest issue so far in Kobach’s race for re-election, and it’s the subject of two lawsuits over its enforcement. Democratic legislators are pushing to modify or repeal the law.

Kobach reported that since the proof-of-citizenship law took effect in January 2013, about 73,000 people have attempted to register, with 72 percent of them, or 52,000, completing the process. The birth-record scans will help 7,716, dropping the number of registrations on hold to about 17 percent of the total - a ratio Kobach sees as acceptable.

House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab, a conservative Olathe Republican, said the proof-of-citizenship law is fading as an issue.

“They’re doing a great job of getting it under control,” he said.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay-rights group and a party in one of the lawsuits, said the remaining registrations on hold are “an ungodly, huge number.”

And Rep. Tom Sawyer of Wichita, the Elections Committee’s top Democrat, said: “We’re creating a much bigger problem to solve a little, tiny one.”

___

Online:

Kansas secretary of state’s office: http://www.kssos.org

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

___

Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna .

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide