When Leaders in Kansas’ African-American community gathered in Topeka late last month to adopt a first of its kind legislative agenda reflecting the issues and concerns of Kansas’ African-American community, one of the groups’ top priorities was the adoption in Kansas of Same (or Election) Day Voter Registration. KBLC members say they see Same-Day Registration as a way to increase voter participation and as a way to address the state’s growing suspended voter registration list. 

Same-Day Registration (SDR) allows eligible voters to register to vote and cast their ballot on the same day. In the 2014 elections, vote participation averaged 12% higher in the 15 states plus the District of Columbia where Election Day registration is allowed by law.

“We see this as an opportunity to counteract some of the concerns generated by the proof of citizenship requirements of the SAFE Act, while still addressing the Secretary of State’s concern about ‘voter fraud,’” said Bonita Gooch, president of the Kansas Black Leadership Council.

Gooch says after people attempt to register to vote without their proof of citizenship, it’s become obvious by the 36,000 voter registrations in suspension, that the extra step is a deal breaker for many.

“It’s that second step, going back and turning in your proof of citizenship that hangs people up. However on Election Day, motivated to vote, if they can get out their ID, proof of citizenship and show up at the poll, that extra step has been eliminated,” said Gooch.

KBLC sees SDR as a way to help increase voter registration within the boundaries of the Kansas SAFE Act, but still voted for the repeal of both the voter ID and proof of citizenship requirements of the SAFE Act.

Pioneered by Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin in the early-to-mid-1970s, fifteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) and the District of Columbia have Same Day Voter Registration. 

Some of the benefits of Same-Day Registration are:

Increases voter turnout. According to the nonprofitvote.org, during the 2014 elections, states with SDR outpaced states without SDR in voter participation by 12%. States that allow Same-Day Registration consistently lead the nation in voter participation with four of the top five states for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election offering Same-Day Registration. 

Eliminates arbitrary deadlines that cut off registration when voters are most interested. Many citizens become most interested and engaged with elections in the last few weeks before Election Day, when candidate debates and campaigns reach their peak and election registration deadlines have passed. 

Remedies inaccurate voter rolls. Many previously-registered voters lose their eligibility merely because they have moved. Others are never added to the voter rolls because of bureaucratic errors. With Same-Day Registration, these voters can simply update registration records or register anew at the polling place and vote a ballot that will be counted.

Assists geographically mobile, lower-income citizens, young voters and voters of color. The second step – turning in their proof of citizenship – that finds 36,000 voter registrations in suspense in Kansas can be difficult for many Kansans to comply with, especially those who have limited transportation or time during the day to get to their county election office. For some, the costs of mailing or faxing their proof of citizenship to their county election office can be prohibitive. 

A cost-effective means to increase voter participation while  maintaining the integrity of the vote. According to Demos.org, a telephone survey conducted by Demos of local election officials in Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, most respondents described the incremental cost of SDR as “minimal.” In 2008, the first year Iowa implemented SDR, the state reported spending $40,000 to introduce SDR for its 99 counties. Iowa, who also introduced SDR in 2008, cited some additional staffing needs at voting sites as the most notable expense associated with Same Day Registration.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has already summarily dismissed SDR as a “recipe for fraud.” This goes against the statements of chief election officers in SDR states who cite little if any problem associated with an increased incidence of fraud with SDR.

“As we work to draft the bill for SDR, that we plan to introduce in the 2016 Legislative Session, KBLC will visit with officials of current SDR states to see how to best implement SDR in Kansas. 

“We feel certain with the technology available today, there will be little if any problem with implementation of this process in a way that addresses Secretary Kobachs ‘fear’ of voter fraud,” said Gooch.

“There is a 40-year history of safe and effective Same Day Registration in this country. KBLC feels certain legislators of Kansas will be excited about and support a system that gets more of their constituents involved in the election process, especially when it’s done within the boundaries of the SAFE Act.” 

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