For months during this past legislative session, nearly every debate about new voter ID laws included Westview Manor, a nursing home for people with mental health issues in Peabody. The facility’s executive director, Bonita Robertson-Boydston, testified in February that of her 51 residents, only nine had an ID and she worried that many wouldn’t be able to vote in the 2012 elections. From then on, her facility was cited frequently by Rep. Bob Brookens, R-Marion, who represented Westview’s residents and Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, an outspoken opponent of the voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach. But last month, Westview Manor quietly had its voter ID problems solved.
Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker went to Peabody personally to help Westview’s residents navigate the process of getting their IDs. According to Robertson-Boydston and Mah, Rucker helped arrange transportation for residents born in Kansas to go to the nearest courthouse and arranged for courthouse officials to come to the facility and take pictures of residents born out-of-state for their IDs. “We’re very glad that they’ve helped us,” said Robertson-Boydston, who added she was also in contact with Brad Bryant, the head of elections in the secretary of state’s office. “I am concerned about the other nursing homes in the state.”
Jil Godfrey, the director of a similar facility in Topeka called Brighton Place West, said she would welcome the help of the secretary of state’s office in making sure her residents can vote. “That would be wonderful,” Godfrey said. “We do have quite a few (residents who vote). Not half, but we probably have 12 to 15 that do vote and would like to vote.” Godfrey said few of the facility’s 50 residents probably have the necessary identification. “The only ones would be the veterans,” Godfrey said. “In fact, not all of our veterans have IDs either. It does concern me. It’s something we really need to have done facility-wide.” Kay Curtis, spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said other facilities could request more information on the ID requirements, as Robertson-Boydston had done.