I am currently working on two campaigns which require the registration of new voters in the state of Kansas. One involves a petition to remove the criminal penalties for possession of marijuana in Wichita, and the other is Jennifer Winn’s campaign for governor (these two campaigns are in no way connected and my role in the petition is minimal, at best). Rather than simply having potential first-time voters fill out the standard form and then turning those forms into our local election office, which is how voter registration has worked for decades, we are now required to include a copy of the registrants’ birth certificates.
This presents multiple issues, the foremost being that most people do not carry their birth certificates around in their purses or wallets. This means that we either have to send the registration home with the potential voter, in the hopes that they remember and have time to find their birth certificate, make a copy of that document, and then mail the documents to the Secretary of State’s office or hand deliver them to the county election office.
Many of the people we are registering are low-income citizens who may not have reliable transportation, and who very likely do not have copy machines in their homes. So now, instead of simply filling out a form that we can submit for them, these people have to take their birth certificate and find a ride to a place where they can make a copy, then either find a ride to the election office or mail the document themselves.
Surely, the Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, who initiated these policies which were enacted by the Kansas State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback, could have used a much simpler procedure for determining voter eligibility. Employers use a computer program that allows them to verify potential employees’ social security numbers. Kobach might have considered using this system to determine whether or not a potential first-time voter is a United States citizen.
Furthermore, birth certificates are issued by the state, which means that many of these documents are already on file with the state of Kansas, or at least with the state of the potential voter’s birth. Surely, a system could be set up where computers verify that a valid birth certificate exists, rather than having someone check each certificate by hand. Voters were already signing an affidavit swearing under penalty of perjury to be United States citizens, simply by registering in the first place.
As Jennifer Winn’s campaign manager, I can assure you that we are not out looking for undocumented workers (immigrants) to register as voters. We are seeking American citizens who are fed up with a system that does not represent their interests, people who have never voted because they never felt as if a candidate actually stood for their interests. The Winn campaign is extremely popular with this demographic, the people who, despite being eligible, have never voted.
And now, as we attempt to register these people in large numbers, we have to go through this added hassle of ensuring that their birth certificates are being mailed in along with their voter registration forms.