The American Civil Liberties Union went to court last month to challenge an egregious Kansas law that requires residents to provide proof of citizenship — such as a birth certificate — to register to vote. The requirement seems contrary to the intent of the federal Motor Voter law, which was supposed to make registration simple. But legal or not, this state law and others like it are truly awful public policy. The case for the Kansas law is that noncitizens might be able to get driver’s licenses and register to vote at the department of motor vehicles, potentially allowing them to skirt the fraud prevention that more conventional voter-ID laws provide. But there is scant evidence of such voter fraud, and certainly not enough to justify demanding that people jump through even more hoops to cast a ballot.
When we asked Craig McCullah, a spokesman for Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, for evidence that voting by noncitizens is a problem demanding a significant policy response, he responded, “If there is no murder in Washington, D.C., does that mean that Washington shouldn’t have a law against murder?”
Arizona State University’s News21 counted 2,068 cases of alleged voter fraud across the country between 2000 and 2012. Registration fraud accounted for about 18 percent of those cases — mainly occurring when paid registration workers signed up fake people in order to get more money. Maybe there is a tidal wave of undercover, malicious voter fraud occurring under the noses of hyper-zealous election officials. More likely, it simply is not a major problem. Kansas’s law might cut down on some rare instances of registration fraud, but that still would not justify the burdens it imposes on citizens trying to exercise a fundamental right.