A southwestern Kansas town’s election next month on the financing of a new municipal swimming pool will be the first test of a much-debated state law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls.
The law takes effect Sunday. On Jan. 10, the 2,200 residents of Cimarron, about 175 miles west of Wichita, will decide whether to impose a 1.25 percent sales tax to help finance the new pool and cover its operating costs.
Gray County Clerk Bonnie Swartz said Tuesday that she’s not anticipating significant problems, though she expects some voters will be frustrated if they forget to bring ID. She said if turnout is strong, 40 percent of registered voters, or about 480 people, may cast ballots.
“There are going to be some who say, `You know who I am,“’ she said. “It’s harder to enforce this type of a law in a small community because everybody knows everybody.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who pushed legislators earlier this year to enact the photo ID requirement as an anti-fraud measure, said he plans to travel to Gray County to observe the voting. He said his office is planning an education campaign ahead of the poll.
“It will give us some indicators of how the voters will respond to the new requirement,” Kobach said. “We’ll be collecting data on what percentage of people forget their IDs.”
In pushing for the law, Kobach released a report showing that the secretary of state’s office had received about six dozen reports of election irregularities involving more than 200 ballots from 1997 through 2010. He took the reports as a sign of a bigger problem, but skeptics said the scanty count of complaints didn’t justify a voter ID law that could suppress turnout among poor, minority and elderly voters.