How do you register to vote in Kansas?  We wish we knew.  It’s a target that keeps changing and may change again as early as this week.   (Story updated as of Sept. 23, 2016 information)

The one thing that isn’t changing is the registration deadline, which at Oct. 18, is rapidly approaching. 

So individuals planning to participate in the Nov. 8 elections, more than ever need a clarification in the process. 

In our Sept. 8 issue, we ran a full-page article about, proof of citizenship rules and how to get a free birth certificate.  All of which were/are required to vote in Kansas.  You may be able to throw that article and those proof of citizenship rules out the door, if a Kansas judge files an injunction against parts of Kansas’ Safe and Fair Elections Act.

In case you missed it, the Kansas Legislature passed the SAFE Act to “ensure that all voters are qualified to vote and to make it more difficult to cast an illegal vote.” The law which took effect in January 2012, requires people to show a valid identification when voting, tightens the rules around advance voting and requires individuals to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. 

Group’s opposing the law have filed a number of lawsuits saying the bill amounts to little more than voter suppression.  It’s this series of lawsuits that has the implementation of the law, and thus what it takes to register to vote in Kansas, up in the air just weeks ahead of the voter registration deadline.  There have been numerous court rulings and countering policy announcements by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  Cumulatively, they have gotten us to a point that individuals who register to vote in Kansas using a Federal voter registration application have different voting registration rules and voting rights than individuals who register to vote using the Kansas voter registration application.   By signing the Federal form, an individual swears they are a citizen of the United States.  With the Kansas form, swearing isn’t enough.  Individuals must submit one of 13 items approved as proof of citizenship. 

Even though Kansas has been required to accept the Federal form, Secretary Kobach has set an administrative policy that allows individuals who register using the Federal form without providing proof of citizenship, to only vote in Federal races (president, senate and congress).  Even though a court has ruled Kobach doesn’t have the legal authority to set up a “two-tiered” voting system, it hasn’t stopped him.   

On Wednesday, a group led by the American Civil Liberties Union requested an injunction that would allow individuals who register to vote on the Federal voter registration form to be able to fully vote in Kansas without providing proof of citizenship.  If granted, individuals who register using the Federal form would be able to vote in all races, i.e. county commission races and Kansas House and Senate races.

In a similar request ahead of the August Primary, Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks approved an injunction that allowed people who registered using the Federal form to vote in all races.  With Wednesday’s hearing also in front of Hendricks, Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, is optimistic about a favorable ruling.

 “We are very confident about our chances of winning the injunction, but it will not be fully settled until the judge rules,” says Kubic.  “Even then, it is possible that Sec. Kobach could appeal to a higher court.”

Voter Registration Recommendations

A ruling in the case shouldn’t take long.  However, Kubich has several suggestions for individuals who need to register to vote in Kansas. 

If you have easy access to the documents required to prove citizenships (e.g. a birth certificate or passport) register is a way that’s convenient – online, in persons or at a voter registration drive – and submit your proof.   (See story “Registering to Vote in Kansas Using the State Voter Application” for tips on getting through that process.)

If you don’t have easy access to proof of citizenship, register using a Federal form.  You can get the Federal form online at the Community Voice website, www.communityvoiceks.com.  Even if Judge Hendricks doesn’t approve the injunction, you can still vote in the Federal races.  If he does approve the injunction, you’re fully registered to vote in this election. 

 If you don’t have the required proof of citizenship, but you don’t want to wait to hear the outcome of the court ruling, read the article “Save time for Kansas’ Extra Voter Registration Steps,” in the Sept. 6, 2016 issue of The Community Voice or online at www.communityvoiceks.com.  We have links to all of those forms online, including the forms necessary to get a free birth certificate to use as proof of citizenship.  

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