To the editor:
As new democracies emerge around the world, we are careful to observe their voting practices. Are the polls open and accessible to all? Are votes counted fairly? Are the waiting lines too long? Are some people turned away from the polls? Voting more than anything else determines the health of a democracy.
If we were to apply this same standard to Kansas, however, we would see many problems. The problems aren't fraud — there aren't too many people voting who shouldn't be — indeed there are almost none. The few problems that are identified usually turn out to be clerical error, or name confusion. Occasionally the elderly manage to get their ballot sent in before they die. A few of us get ballots at more than one location when our name isn't removed quickly enough from the voting rolls. But, we do have voting problems.
One of the major problems is that so many people don't bother to vote at all. We should be doing all we can to make voting easier, more accessible, and more important to people.
But, this year, our problems are worse and different. More than 15,000 people in the state of Kansas have tried to register to vote since Jan. 1, but their voter registration forms are sitting in files in county clerk offices, waiting for them to come in and prove their citizenship. They can bring in their birth certificate — assuming they ever had a copy of it, and can find it. This will be especially difficult for the elderly who may have down-sized and moved many times in their lives.
This will also be difficult for women who may have changed their names — sometimes several times through marriage and divorce, and who will have to bring in a series of legal documents tracking all of the name changes.
It will be difficult for the military families who move in and out of Leavenworth County every year.
And, it creates difficulties for those who register at the Motor Vehicle office, and whose proof of citizenship may not get copied and transferred to the county clerk.
Leavenworth County has more than 1,000 voter registration forms waiting for citizenship proof. It has always been required that you attest to your own citizenship status when you register to vote, but apparently that isn't good enough anymore. These efforts to make voter registration more difficult, and even prohibitive for many of us. strike at the very bedrock of our democracy. And, it is especially shameful here in Leavenworth County where our military families will be impacted the most by this restriction.
After a very long legislative session, the state has now convened a special session. This would be a great time for them to repeal this regulation that creates a barrier to voting, and a challenge to our democracy. Please encourage your state legislators to repeal the requirement to prove citizenship.