Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wichita Branch and Kansas State NAACP Political Action committee to meet with Secretary of State Thornburgh concerning Voter Registration

This summer, the Wichita Branch NAACP was beginning to gear up for our Voter Registration efforts. Our plan was to engage in a large scale effort where we would attempt to reach more of our community than ever before. We reviewed block maps and discussed walking door to door and registering everybody in zip codes 67208, 67214, and 67220.

Before we launched, we followed the old adage that you should always "measure twice and cut once" and researched quite extensively to see if there was anything that we were missing. As it turns out, perhaps there was...

Below you'll see the actual text of our State Statute concerning Voter Registration. It was passed in 1994 and enacted into law as a direct result of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act or (NVRA).

The statute states that every Kansas driver's license application and non-driver identification card application (including any renewals) shall serve as an application for voter registration.

This should mean that with very few exceptions (those who are too young, have prior felonies and are still on paper, or who simply opt out) the overwhelming majority of all licensed drivers within the State should already be registered voters.

So we checked the Secretary of State's website and the Department of Motor Vehicles and did a comparison of the number of licensed drivers against the number of registered voters. Our review found that State-wide there is a disparity of about 20%, meaning there are about 20% more licensed drivers than there are registered voters. While we expected there would be some disparity due to the classes of exceptions, 20% seems a bit high...

However, in Sedgwick (our most populous County) the disparity is actually 43%. This seems to be a clear indication that something is wrong... Not necessarily an act of malfeasance but at the very least there seems to be a structural or procedural impediment to fulfilling the spirit and intent of NVRA.

Upon finding that, we went back to the Statute to look for any imprecise language that could have created the structural impediment. What stood out was the next highlighted section which says that the Voter Registration section of the application may require duplicate information and additional signatures...

That section (25 2352 B1) is in clear contradiction to NVRA Public Law 103-31, section 5, (c)(2)(a) which reads:

(2) The voter registration application portion of an application for a State motor vehicle driver's license--
(A) may not require any information that duplicates information required in the driver's license portion of the form (other than a second signature or other information necessary under subparagraph (C));

and Subparagraph C follows with:

(C) shall include a statement that--
(i) states each eligibility requirement (including citizenship);
(ii) contains an attestation that the applicant meets each such requirement; and
(iii) requires the signature of the applicant, under penalty of perjury;

Now I know how it was done. When the Kansas Statute was passed, a loophole was created by language in our subsection (b)(1) that says the additional information is necessary to prevent voter fraud. But that's a bogus argument that we can easily demonstrate...

Beyond these issues, we began talking with people about their renewals at the DMV and thus far no one we've asked remembers receiving any information on Voter Registration. Now you will see when you look at the language in the statute, there's another linguistic loophole that reads "unless the applicant fails to sign the voter registration application".
The problem is, if you don't receive the application, or if you see a form that basically duplicates the information you've already completed and you understand that the additional form is both optional and 'unnecessary' then chances are you will leave the DMV un-registered.

The NVRA also stipulated that all States make Voter Registration available at facilities that offer public assistance. That section of NVRA is not reflected in our State Statute at all.

In my dual capacity as Chairman of the Kansas State NAACP Political Action Committee, I have called and arranged a meeting with Secretary of State Thornburgh next month to discuss Voter Registration in the State and we are preparing to put something together for the next Legislative session.

In the interim we are gathering additional information and polling folks from the community about their DMV experiences. In that effort, we need your help... We're asking everyone in the community if you received Voter Registration information when you obtained or renewed your Kansas Driver's License. Please email us at and let us know...
If we just closed the disparity between Sedgwick County and the rest of the State we could potentially add about 20,000 voters to the rolls (and we wouldn't have to wear out our shoes in the process)

Chapter 25.--ELECTIONS

25-2352. Registration of voters as part of application for driver's license or nondriver identification card.
(a) (1) Each Kansas division of motor vehicles driver's license application and nondriver identification card application (including any renewal application) submitted to a division of motor vehicles office in Kansas shall serve as an application for voter registration unless the applicant fails to sign the voter registration application. [emphasis mine] An individual who completes the application for voter registration and is otherwise eligible shall be registered to vote in accordance with the information supplied by the individual.

(2) An application for voter registration submitted under subsection (a)(1) shall be considered as updating any previous voter registration by the applicant.
(b) The voter registration section of the application:
(1) May require [see above] a second signature or other information that duplicates, or is in addition to, information in the driver's license or nondriver's identification card section of the application to prevent duplicate voter registrations, and to enable Kansas election officials to assess the eligibility of the applicant and to administer voter registration and other parts of the election process;
(2) shall include a statement that specifies each eligibility requirement for voting, contains an attestation that the applicant meets each such requirement, including citizenship, and requires the signature of the applicant, under penalty of perjury;
(3) shall include a statement that, if an applicant declines to register to vote, the fact that the applicant has declined to register will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes;
(4) shall include a statement that if an applicant does register to vote, the office at which the applicant submits a voter registration application will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes;
(5) shall be made available by the division of vehicles (as submitted by the applicant, or in machine-readable or other format) to the secretary of state and county election officers, as provided by rules and regulations adopted by the secretary of state; and
(6) shall be transmitted to the county election officer not later than five days after the date of acceptance.

(c) The motor vehicle driver's license and nondriver identification card form used for change of residence address shall also serve as a notification of change of residence address for voter registration for elections, unless the registrant states on the form that the change is not for voter registration purposes.
(d) The voter registration portion of the motor vehicle driver's license and nondriver identification card applications and change of address forms used shall be subject to approval by the secretary of state for purposes of voter registration under this section.
(e) Following the line fixed for the signature of the applicant on the application for voter registration, a statement shall be printed stating that the penalty for submission of a false voter registration application is a maximum presumptive sentence of 17 months in prison.
(f) The secretary of state is hereby authorized to adopt such rules and regulations in the manner prescribed by law as may be necessary for the administration of the provisions of this section.

History: L. 1993, ch. 140, § 1; L. 1996, ch. 187, § 14; Apr. 25.

1 Click HERE to POST or READ the latest comments!!!:

Clyde Williams, President Mar-Saline Branch #4069,  September 20, 2007 at 8:14 AM  

Great Job KANSAS. The relationship you have with the SOS aand/or can create with the SOS can hepl is an admendment to the Statute in the upcoming legislation. Do not be upset if the SOS says SUE ME. Lawsuits are brought against their office daily. What he is telling you is that you may have to take it to court to have a judge rule on the Voter Registration Statute. Resources, coaltions, partners, and stick-to-itness will bring VICTORY.

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