Leaders representing about two dozen, faith, labor and civil rights groups from across Kansas met here today to organize efforts to battle early implementation of the state’s voter identification law. The organizations were reacting to efforts announced by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to begin enforcing a provision requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration next spring. The law, passed last March, currently doesn’t go into effect until January 2013. Election officials have also voiced opposition to moving up the date.
But groups meeting over the lunch hour at Inter-Faith Ministries said Kobach’s efforts to start the requirement in March could keep thousands of Kansas citizens from participating in the 2012 elections. People who don’t have driver’s licenses or changes in name or address may not have the documentation required by law to register to vote, they said.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Marie Johnson of the NAACP in Salina told the group. “It makes it more difficult for people to participate in our democracy.”
Kobach said the objections are premature, because regulations currently being drafted will define how the law is implemented and will address many of their concerns. Regulations have been written and are being sent to the Kansas Department of Administration, then to the attorney general.
“That process should be finished by the end of the year,” Kobach said. “We spent the summer working with election officials across the state in bipartisan groups to draft the regulations and find the best ways on how to put this law into effect.”
Johnson and others said providing proof of citizenship would hamper voter registration efforts across the state.
Ernestine Krehbiel, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said 1 million Kansas women who have married have changed or added names that are different from their birth certificates. She said people who have moved won’t have valid addresses, and many people who are elderly and poor can’t get to the motor vehicle registration office to obtain new identification.