The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

September 21, 2012

Kansas’ state voter ID law tested in August primary

There were 251 votes statewide in Kansas in the Aug. 6 primary that weren’t counted because the voters didn’t present the proper photo identification under the new voter ID law.

They probably weren’t trying to commit voter impersonation fraud, sources, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, say. Nor is it likely they were disenfranchised, the same sources say.

Whether others who didn’t bother to go to the polls because of the hurdles created by the law were disenfranchised by it remains a source of heated disagreement.

‘OUTSTANDING SUCCESS’

When Kansas voters went to the polls on Aug. 6 for the primary, 405 people didn’t have the proper photo identification. They were allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Kobach said the 405 is one-tenth of 1 percent of the 398,367 ballots cast in the primary.

Those who cast provisional ballots because of lack of identification had until the vote was final, when they were canvassed, to present their identification to election officials. That resulted in 154 of the votes being counted, while another 251 weren’t counted because the voters didn’t return with their identification.

“I think it’s an outstanding success,” Kobach said of the performance of the Kansas ID law in the August primary. “I think it’s an extraordinary success.”

He said, based on experience of county election officials during the April city elections, it’s likely that those who didn’t return with their IDs before the canvass didn’t want to go to the trouble, because preliminary results indicated their votes wouldn’t change an outcome.

“Most of them had a photo ID and decided it wasn’t worth the effort,” Kobach said. “They weren’t disenfranchised.”

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law in its report “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification” lists Kansas as one of 10 states with the most restrictive voter ID laws. It states that 11 percent of eligible voters in those states lack voter ID and must travel to a government office to get one, which will be difficult and costly for many.

“The result is plain: voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote,” reads the report summary. “They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.”

Kobach disputes the report’s findings, pointing to the August primary as evidence.

“I think the Brennan Center has been laughable,” Kobach said. “They won’t acknowledge success. Their figures have no basis in fact. They’re rapidly losing credibility.”

Kobach said he thinks almost everyone has a photo ID.

“A very, very high percentage will have a photo ID,” he said. “We’re confident the vast majority of people have a photo ID.”

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