Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The 20 by 10 Voter Registration campaign bears fruit: Motor-Voter is back on track

Long time readers of this blog will remember that last summer, the Wichita Branch launched an ambitious Voter Registration campaign that we dubbed "the 20 by 10" campaign.

The Campaign was aimed at spurring compliance with the "Motor Voter" bill or NVRA (The National Voter Registration Act) of 1994, which was codified in Kansas law as statute 25-2352. We began our campaign by doing a comparative analysis of the number of licensed drivers and the number of registered voters. In that analysis, we found that a State-wide rate of disparity of approximately 20% (meaning there are about 20% more licensed drivers than there are registered voters). However, in Sedgwick County (which is the States most populous and most urban County) the disparity is actually 43%. We saw that as a clear indication that something was 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 then conducted an online poll of Drivers within Sedgwick County. Our poll 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%

Armed with this information, we requested a meeting with Secretary of State Thornburgh. We met and discussed the issue of voter registration, and specifically our concern that the DMV's in Sedgwick county were not in compliance with the statutory requirements of NVRA or Kansas State Law. After presenting our case and arguments, Secretary Thornburgh agreed with our reading of the statute and assured us that he would ensure that the DMV's throughout the State are providing Voter Registration information to all individuals who present themselves for licensing.

I am now pleased to report that the Kansas Motor Voter statute is back on track! In January 08, Secretary Thornburgh met with Secretary of Revenue Joan Wagnon and discussed the program and ways that new technologies might aid the process. (There had been some talk of moving towards an electronic voter registration system in the past, but those plans had been cancelled due to a lack of funding and resources) Secretary Thornburgh discussed the importance of the program and the need for compliance and offered assistance to the KDOR to help move the process forward.

Since that time, the DMV and the Department of Revenue, have worked to develop and implement a new system that will electronically process Voter Registrations & bring the State into compliance with the Motor Voter Statutes.

Here are the basics of the program: The driver's licence examiner will ask each applicant if they want to register to vote. If the person says yes, the examiner will ask three additional voter registration questions: (1) Are you a US citizen? (2) Will you be 18 by the next election? (3) Do you wish to declare a party affiliation? The new computer program will then assimilate the voting-related information with the name address and other information already collected for the driver's license, attach the digitized signature to the record, and send it in batches to the Agency central database for our voter registration system.

On behalf of the Wichita Branch NAACP, we would like to thank Secretary Thornburgh for meeting with us, and for being responsive to the issues and concerns of the community...

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