To the editor:
The League of Women Voters celebrated its 93rd anniversary on Feb. 14. Since our founding in 1920, the League has worked tirelessly to protect and uphold the constitutional right to vote, a right that composes the very foundation of our democracy.
However, while we celebrate our successes, we are concerned by stark challenges to our democracy. We are deeply concerned about existing voters in Johnson County. Early voting during weekends and nights would allow more people to vote. Yet in the 2012 election, I stood in line with many others for at least 90 minutes in order to vote early because I work during the day. I saw elderly and women with multiple little children and pregnant women with no place to sit as they stood nearly two hours in order to exercise their franchise. If I were tired of standing on a concrete floor for that long, I know that they endured more. We must ask that early voting be made easier: more places, more hours.
The League of Women Voters is deeply concerned about requiring proof of citizenship in order to vote for the first time in Kansas. If you were in the United States illegally, drawing attention to yourself by attempting to vote is simply not something you would do. In fact, we know of no documented case in Kansas. Voter impersonation is likewise not a documented problem.
What we do know, it that the League's work in registering voters has been made very difficult by the new voter registration regulations which went into effect Jan. 1, 2013. We are concerned that young voters, the elderly, the working poor, and women who have married (whose names don't match their birth certificates) will find it hard or at the least very time consuming to comply with the requirements.
It takes time and money to obtain out-of-state birth certificates and marriage licenses to show name changes and provide proof of citizenship. The result is likely suppressing the vote of these groups.
The League believes we should be expanding voting rights, not curtailing them, and working to make elections free, fair and accessible to all eligible citizens.
LWVJoCo is one of nearly 800 Leagues (including one in Leavenworth County) in all 50 states that works to protect voters' rights. We respect all points of view, and never support or oppose candidates for office or political parties. This is what sets the League apart from so many organizations, and it is why we welcome new volunteers to take part in our work here in our community.
Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. For more information about the League, visit www.LWVJoCo.org.