Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is under fire from the national media, the Kansas City Star, the Wichita Eagle, the ACLU and the Democratic Party for his position that voter registrants must prove they are U.S. citizens and that voters must verify their identification when voting.
The differences between those who believe that only verified citizens should vote and those who believe that no proof of citizenship should be required are reflected in the Republican and Democratic platforms.
The Republican national platform supports requiring “proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting.” The Kansas platform supports “requiring Kansans to show a government-issued photo ID to vote in any election in our state.”
The Democratic national platform states that “we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws.” The Kansas platform opposes voter identification laws and proof of citizenship before registering to vote in Kansas. Apparently, prohibiting non-citizens from voting is discriminatory.
Four times the U.S. Constitution establishes “The right of citizens of the United States to vote.” The 14th Amendment clarifies who is a citizen: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” This definition is further clarified in 8 US Code S 1401. Simply put, the U.S. Constitution and federal law do not allow non-citizens to vote. By opposing proof of citizenship, Democrats would allow anyone to vote simply by declaring themselves to be citizens.
The Democratic platform is grossly out of step with a July national poll that asked the question: “Should photo ID be required to prove citizenship before voting?” Broken out by respondents’ party affiliation, 60 percent of Democrats, 96 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of independents said yes.
Some say that because voting is a right, individuals may not be required to provide proof of citizenship. Under current federal law, an individual registering to vote must sign a document affirming that he or she is a citizen. Nothing else is required.
The right to vote is not absolute (felons). There is no absolute First Amendment right to free speech (yelling fire in a crowded theater), no absolute right to a religious doctrine that involves human sacrifice, and no absolute Second Amendment right to own a surface-to-air missile.
Should not those who support the Democratic platform also demand that anyone wanting to purchase a gun can do so simply by signing a document that says it will not be used in the commission of a crime?
In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of states requiring a photo ID to vote. The rationale was that states have a legitimate interest in preventing voter fraud. The ruling applied only to state, not federal, elections. Registrants using the federal registration form are not required to provide proof of citizenship. What rational reason is there as to why the federal government has no interest in ensuring that the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and federal law are upheld?
Some claim that requiring proof of citizenship discriminates against the poor, minorities, the elderly and the young. Studies, though, do not account for people in those groups who do not want a photo ID and do not want to vote. Transportation and cost are usually cited as the reason for no photo ID or birth certificate. It is a matter of individual responsibility for people who want to vote to find a way to get the proper documentation. States should help with work-arounds, such as issuing free IDs to the poor. State and volunteer senior citizen programs could help with transportation.
Left-leaning editorial boards, such as at the New York Times, claim that the “real goal” of strict voter registration laws is “to make voting harder for millions of Americans, on the understanding that Republicans win more elections when fewer people vote.”
No, the “real goal” is to ensure that only individuals who abide by the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Code should be allowed to vote.
Kobach now is being pilloried by the Star and other media as a “hyper-partisan ideologue” seeking “private information.” Had Kobach detractors read the letter requesting voter information they would find that he asked for “publicly available voter roll data.” That is a far cry from “private information.”
Kobach’s objective is to ensure that only U.S. citizens vote. The Star states that any violations are “miniscule.” Why do the Star and others accept any voter fraud? Is there any level of non-citizen voting that is unacceptable?
The right to vote is one our most precious freedoms. It must be protected.
Rich Kiper is a Leavenworth Times columnist.