Progress on modernizing the Kansas computer system for issuing driver’s licenses is six months ahead of schedule and could mean that some potential voters will be required to show proof of their U.S. citizenship during this year’s presidential election, a key legislator said Monday. House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, said legislators want to be sure the state Division of Vehicles is ready to scan and store electronic copies of documents such as birth certificates and passports before revising a state law that imposes the proof-of-citizenship requirement. The law applies to people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas.
The rule is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2013, but Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants to move the date up to June 15, ahead of the presidential election in November. Schwab’s committee is sponsoring a bill containing Kobach’s proposal and plans to have hearings by the end of the month.
The issue is tied to a $40 million upgrade of Division of Vehicles computers because legislators want all Kansas residents to be able to register to vote when obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. And they want the division’s electronic files to be available to election officials who need to verify a potential voter’s citizenship. In enacting the proof-of-citizenship requirement last year, lawmakers set its effective date for 2013 because many legislators argued that the delay would give the Division of Vehicles enough time to finish modernizing its computers.