Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NAACP meets with Secretary of State Thornburgh about Voter Registration and NVRA

The Wichita Branch NAACP met yesterday with Kansas Secretary of State Thornburgh to discuss the issue of voter registration. We dealt specifically with our concern that the DMV's in Sedgwick county are not in compliance with the statutory requirements of NVRA or Kansas State Law.

As we'd reported here in an earlier post, the statute reads 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 after doing a comparison of the number of licensed drivers against the number of registered voters, we found that there is a State-wide rate of disparity of around 20% (meaning there are about 20% more licensed drivers than there are registered voters). 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.

We also shared the results of our poll with Secretary Thornburgh. Our poll question simply asked, "When you obtained or renewed your Kansas Drivers License, were you given any information concerning Voter Registration?" The results were as follows:

YES - 0%
I think so - 0%
I don't recall - 7%
I don't think so - 28%
No I wasn't - 64%

The Driver's license application is being used as a Voter Registration form, but as allowed by statute, Kansas requires that a person wishing registered to vote also completes a second form. While the DMV's do have the additional Voter Registration forms and information on hand, they have not been presenting it to the applicants unless it is requested.

We presented our case that per our reading of the statute, this information is to be presented to the applicants and not simply maintained on site. The intent of NVRA, upon which our Kansas Statute (25-2352) is based, is that persons who present themselves for licensure would be registered to vote if eligible. We've found that people are currently being given the voter registration application (which is integrated into the Driver's license application) yet the signature page is not presented unless it is specifically requested, and no information is given to the individuals about the process or their options. People leave the DMV unregistered and without knowing that they even had the option to register. We stated that it was our understanding that this practice was not consistent with State or Federal law.

The Secretary agreed with our reading of the statute and assured us that he will ensure that the DMV's throughout the State are providing Voter Registration information to all individuals who present themselves for licensing.

We will continue to monitor the situation and continue our polling of applicants. Once this change is made, the first step in our 20 by 10 campaign will be officially underway...



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.

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