Thursday, February 10, 2011

State President K Myles full testimony against the proposed Kansas Voter ID Bill

Testimony regarding HB 2067 – Voter Photographic ID Requirements (February 9th, 2010)

Chairman Schwab, Vice Chairman Goico, and members of the Committee on Elections,

My name is Kevin Myles and I am the President of the Kansas State Conference of the NAACP, representing more than 2,000 registered voters throughout the State of Kansas.

We are here to voice our opposition to HB2067, the proposed Voter ID bill. To be clear, we are not opposed to efforts to ensure the integrity of our voting system in principle, we are opposed to the specific plans that the Secretary has put forth. You will hear testimony today regarding the cost of this measure, the fact that our current system has already proven secure, the fact that necessary changes and reforms to our current system could be handled administratively, and that the proposed consolidation of powers within the Secretary of State’s office is absolutely unwarranted. We will therefore direct our testimony to the issue of disenfranchisement, and how provisions in this current proposal would result in voter suppression.

This issue should be of grave concern to us all. For while we should be undoubtedly be concerned if even a single fraudulent vote is cast, we should be even more concerned if even a single legal voter is disenfranchised. And that is because voting is one of our most fundamental constitutional rights. No law, no tariff, and no ordinance should ever be imposed that would deprive any Legal, Law Abiding, American citizen of the franchise.

The Secretary's proposed bill requires that an Election Officer certify a person’s immigration status at the time of registration. Now that's not particularly onerous, but the language in Section 7, subparagraph L, parts 1 through 6; specifies that their status must be confirmed by submission of a physical drivers license, birth certificate, or passport, or by a photo‐copy of said documents. What this means is, if a group or organization such as the NAACP or the League of Women Voters wanted to set up a table to register people to vote at a fair or a community forum, as both organizations have done for more than 50 years, unless the unregistered prospective voters happened to have a photo copy of their license in their pockets, they could not be registered.

In 2008, the Wichita NAACP partnered with KDGS 93.9 Radio Station, Sunflower Community Action, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and Outback Steakhouse, to host a community Registration forum in a popular Wichita Park. We were joined in the park by Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer who even helped us register people to vote in that traditionally underserved area. We gathered more than 350 registrations in just a few short hours. But had this proposed bill been in effect at the time, ALL 350 LEGAL REGISTRATION APPLICATIONS WOULD HAVE BEEN REJECTED BY THE SECRETARY’S OFFICE.

Members of the Committee, please consider that there is NO additional information that could be gleaned from a photo copy of someone’s driver’s license that could not just as easily be obtained through a query of their driver’s license number, as is permissible under current statute. In fact, a folded and mailed photo copy of a drivers license, which could quite easily be forged or manufactured, could not itself serve as verification of citizenship. Instead, upon receipt of such a document, election officials would still have to verify a citizen’s voting credentials and citizenship through a query of their Drivers license number. Current statute allows for the submission of a Drivers License number with a Voter Registration application – but this proposed bill radically changes that process, and adds an obstacle for registration; one that provides NO net benefit in terms of information or ease of processing, but would instead virtually eliminate traditional get‐out‐the‐vote drives and door‐to‐door canvassing, and would authorize the outright rejection of registration applications from legal, law abiding, American citizens.

The intent of this newly included language becomes even more dubious when you consider that the bill also contains specific language that would ensure that other communities are not similarly disenfranchised. On page 18, in Section 7, subparagraph L, part 4; naturalized citizens would be allowed to submit the number of their certificate of naturalization without having to obtain and submit paper copies. Section 7, subparagraph L, part 6; allows Native Americans to submit their tribal enrollment number without having to obtain and mail in paper copies. – The use of a Document number is a uniform and common practice that facilitates on‐site registrations while still protecting people’s personal data ‐ But native born American citizens, low income persons who would typically be registered in a traditional get‐out‐the‐vote type drive or initiative will no longer be allowed to register using their driver’s license number as is currently permissible in EVERY STATE in the Nation. They will no longer be allowed to register at community forums or workshops after hearing and learning about the issues. This bill places an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle in their path which would prevent on‐site registrations in most instances. Instead they will be required to go to Kinko’s to obtain paper copies of their personal documents just to prevent the Secretary’s Office from rejecting their Legal and Legitimate registrations.

On Monday, you heard testimony from our Secretary of State regarding the very foundation of our Nation, and I quote, "A constitutional republic rests on two foundations; one is the Constitution itself, the other is the trust of the citizenry that elections are free and that the will of the people is being conveyed securely through elections that are free from fraud." He went on to say that when “that trust begins to break down, the foundation of the republic erodes."

I would respectfully ask that we each reconsider that testimony today. For if the Secretary is to be believed, then one of the foundations of society is the trust of the citizenry that elections are FREE and THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE IS BEING CONVEYED.

But how are we to reconcile that foundational principle with the provisions in this bill that would allow for the rejection of Voter Registration applications; not for fraud, not for ineligibility, but for failure to comply with an newly created administrative hurdle; one that solves NO problems, one that serves no necessary purpose, and one that provides no additional information that is not already provided under current statute? How are we to trust that our elections are FREE and representative of the WILL OF THE PEOPLE, when this body is being asked to consider a bill whose newly inserted language would inhibit the legal and legitimate registration of American Citizens, who by circumstance find themselves poor or low income, through the unnecessary prohibition of traditional get‐out‐the‐vote activities?

We would also ask that you consider that the bill would require that ALL voters show their driver’s license or photo ID at their polling place. But, it does not instruct the election workers to examine the documents to determine citizenship or eligibility. Rather, it instructs election officials to compare the name and address as recorded on the photo ID with the information recorded in the Voter Registration database. And that if there is a discrepancy between their driver's license and the information contained in the Voter Registration records (such as a change of address, or change of last name due to marriage), that legally registered voter would be given only a provisional ballot. Their only other alternative, after having stood in line and waiting on a Tuesday afternoon, only to find out their status was being challenged by an administrative database discrepancy, would be to go home, grab a utility bill, go back to the polling station and start in the line all over again. Many people finding themselves in a similar situation would simply go back to work, and their votes would be lost.

Chairman Schwab and members of the committee, we ask that you seriously consider the fact that while these clear and foreseeable outcomes may be in fact be unintended, they are never‐the‐less very well known and well documented Voter Suppression tactics. The States of Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, and Florida have all faced legal or administrative action after implementing procedures and policies that created needless technical barriers to voter registrations as this bill would do. And the States of Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin, have all faced legal action as a result of “no match – no vote” policies where citizens ballots were challenged as a result of typographical or database discrepancies (such as address changes, married names, and/or hyphenated names) as this bill would allow.

When you consider the costs of this proposal: When you consider the fact that the Secretary testified last week concerning 221 cases of voter fraud, yet a review of his submitted testimony shows that fewer than 5 of those cases could have been prevented through the implementation of this bill: When you consider the fact that the language in this bill will create unnecessary obstacles for legal and law‐abiding citizens and may prevent otherwise qualified voters from exercising their constitutional right to participate in our elections: we ask you to reject this bill.

Respectfully,
Kevin Myles
President; Kansas State Conference of NAACP Branches

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