April 15, 2011

April 15, 2011 | Commentary on Legal Issues, Rule of Law

Kansas Moves to Assure Honest Elections

As the 2012 primary season rapidly approaches, it is good to see states taking steps necessary to improve the security and integrity of the election process.

One big step in the right direction will come on April 18 when Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas is expected to sign into law HB 2067, one of the best examples of common sense election reforms.

HB 2067 was the brain child of Kris Kobach, Kansas’ new secretary of state. A very smart lawyer who worked for U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft at the Justice Department, Kobach gained national attention last year for helping members of the Arizona Legislature draft their immigration bill. Now he has turned his talents to improving election procedures.

The Kansas bill requires individuals to present photo ID when voting at the polls on Election Day. Similar provisions in Georgia and Indiana have been upheld by state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

But more controversial is HB 2067’s requirement that everyone must present proof of citizenship when registering to vote. That’s a requirement only Georgia and Arizona have previously implemented.

Registration by noncitizens, both legal and illegal, is a problem all over the country. The Colorado secretary of state recently testified before a House congressional committee that a routine check had found thousands of registered voters in the state who may not be citizens.

Arizona passed such a registration requirement by referendum in 2004. Georgia passed a similar requirement but had to sue the Justice Department to get approval under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

And Kobach has taken an additional step—one designed to reduce fraud associated with absentee ballots. This is has long been an area of great concern. A Florida law enforcement agency called fraudulent absentee ballots the “tool of choice” among election thieves.

HB 2067 requires those requesting absentee ballots to provide their Kansas driver’s license number or a photocopy of their photo ID. Moreover, the signature on the application form must be verified against the signature on file with registration officials.

In the past, liberal activists have put up an almost united opposition to such measures, claiming the intent is “voter suppression”—even though the intent is obviously just to suppress illegal voting.

That opposition is starting to crack in the face of 1) overwhelming support for voter ID requirements by voters of all races and colors and 2) overwhelming evidence from actual elections that such requirements do not depress voter turnout.

In Kansas, only 11 of 33 Democrats in the House voted against HB 2067. In the Senate, only three of eight Democrats opposed the final measure.

Kansas is fortunate not only in having Kobach, but in having Brownback as its new governor. Brownback will sign this bill into law. Three years ago, when Kansas passed a voter ID law, it was promptly vetoed by then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The types of reform implemented by Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and now Kansas should serve as a model for other states interested in assuring the integrity of the electoral process. Photo ID, proof of citizenship, and stricter verification of absentee ballots should be the norm, not the exception, in every state.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Hans A. von Spakovsky Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow
Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

First appeared in The Washington Examiner