A state board today rejected changes to the Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship for newly registered voters as voting rights advocates voiced concerns that thousands of Kansans will be unable to vote because of implementation snags with the new law. Camille Nohe and Maryanna Quilty, both of Topeka and with the League of Women Voters, on Tuesday speak about problems with the law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. “We are putting up a barrier to voting that doesn’t need to be there,” said Maryanna Quilty, president of the League of Women Voters of Shawnee County. The proof-of-citizenship law requires people who register to vote in the state for the first time to provide a birth certificate, passport or other document. But since it went into effect Jan. 1, more than 12,000 people who have attempted to register to vote are in “suspense,” meaning they are not yet qualified to vote.
Officials said the registrations in question are people who are coming in to the Division of Vehicles to renew their license, or change their address or name on their license and decided to register to vote at the same time.
Jeannine Koranda, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, which oversees the Division of Vehicles said, “In Kansas, we require proof of lawful presence for people getting their driver’s license for the first time such as a teenager or someone moving in from out of state.
“To renew a license, you do not need to prove lawful presence. So it is possible for someone to come in and do something with their license and not prove lawful presence, but with every driver’s license transaction we are required by Federal law to ask if people want to register to vote. If they do not have proof of citizenship documents the registration is still sent to the SOS’s (Secretary of State) office where it goes into suspension until those documents are provided. The SOS’s office or the election clerk sends a letter to those voters whose registrations are in suspense letting them know they need to provide additional documents.”