The state’s voter identification law and a poll worker who didn’t fully understand it prevented elderly residents of a Topeka care facility from voting in Tuesday’s primary election. Secretary of State Kris Kobach confirmed Thursday that some residents of Brewster Place in southwest Topeka who showed up to a polling place there without I.D.s were turned away without being issued provisional ballots, as required by law. “It appears the poll worker just didn’t understand the instructions,” Kobach said, namely that no potential voter should be rejected without at least being offered the chance to vote provisionally. Provisional ballots allow a potential voter more time to produce an identification that complies with the law the Legislature passed in 2011. They must be vetted by a county canvassing board that decides which provisional votes will be counted. Kobach spearheaded the ID law and a proof-of-citizenship requirement to register, saying the measures are necessary to prevent voter impersonation and protect the state from “alien” voters.
Kobach said he had spoken to Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell about the Brewster Place incident. Howell said the county’s election training is sound. “The first thing we teach poll workers, all 600 of them, is that every voter is eligible to receive a ballot and never to deny the ballot,” Howell said. “I think it is clear based on the call log that at least one person had that happen.”
Howell, like Kobach, said it was an error by a single poll worker. “That particular person won’t be invited back as a poll worker in the future,” Howell said.
Howell said three voters were affected and one was later able to vote. He said he apologized to the other two. He said he was told Brewster Place had an ID for each of its residents on file but he hadn’t seen them to confirm they were valid for voting.