A registration nation:birth certificate required

Photo illustration by Zach Waggoner

Photo illustration by Zach Waggoner

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Extra measures are reasonable

Jordan B. Simoncic | Guest Columnist

With the new year comes a new law in Kansas. Kansas legislators want to change the way we, as citizens, vote. They are requiring photo identification to vote. For new voters who register on or after Jan. 1, 2013, legislators want you to have to show or provide proof of citizenship. The Kansas law requires photo ID from all in-person voters at every election. People submitting mail-in ballots must include either a copy of their photo ID or the number from the photo ID card. By requiring this proof of citizenship, legislators hope to cut voter fraud and easily track and prosecute violators.
I believe this step toward identification of who you are will be helpful and convenient for thousands of citizens. We have to show identification to cash checks, transfer money, and buy tobacco products and/or alcohol. And the list goes on. In the previously mentioned situations, we freely give our IDs without question, handing out this form of identification and that form. Handing over a photo ID shouldn’t be that difficult unless it is fraudulent. This is a big reason I believe in this new law.
Another thing this law will regulate is registration. Right now, registration is as simple as filling out a card and mailing it in. Starting in 2013, you will need to mail in a copy of your birth certificate or passport with your registration card. I feel this isn’t a big deal either. To apply for a job, you need to have several forms of identification to receive the job to begin with. Most people have their birth certificate, Social Security, and driver’s license handy and readily available. If you need a replacement birth certificate, it is only $15, which is cheaper than trying to get a replacement driver’s license. I feel people are just too lazy to get all the required forms and identification asked of them for something new.
All these precautions are to help regulate a larger problem: FRAUD. The new laws aren’t asking you to donate a kidney. They are just trying to help with accountability issues. They also allow officials to easily track offenders and prosecute fairly. The laws are to hamper people from trying to cheat the system. So why is it such a big deal to have to show a photo ID or birth certificate to be allowed to vote?

New voter ID law is cause for concern

Jeffrey Tangney | Copy Editor

Across the country voter registration laws are getting tougher, ideally to limit people living here illegally from voting. However, these laws are having unintended consequences on people who have voted for years and the amount of voter fraud they will save is minimal at best. Despite this fact, the state of Kansas passed a bill this year to require voters registering for the first time to present a birth certificate or passport to prove citizenship, starting in 2013.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that elected officials feel voter fraud is rampant. If I thought my job security was at stake, I too would search for some answer other than my own failings. However, overreacting to an absurd distortion of a minor problem is not the way to run the government and should not be allowed to occur.
I feel that the new law will in fact be detrimental to citizens who want to vote but find the process of registering too detailed and time consuming, especially those who are working class and have little available time to do so. The law takes the recent wave of voter registration laws one step further than is necessary to limit the problem and will create more problems than it solves.
Thirty states currently have voter ID laws and Kansas is one of seven classified as “strict.” These laws are done ostensibly to protect the rights of citizens. In fact, Gov. Brownback was quoted after the bill was passed as saying, “I think these are reasonable steps to protect the rights of our citizens.” Which rights are being protected? The right to vote? This seems an obvious answer, but I feel it is not correct. More people will not be able to vote under the new law as some people without access to a birth certificate or without time to obtain one will become disenfranchised. So if it isn’t the right to vote, which right is it? I for one cannot think of a single right that will be protected by this bill, at least not for the citizens already living here.
So why did this law get passed? Is it because there was inadequate information that led officials to believe in a nonexistent problem? Was it because so many other states were doing it and we didn’t want to be left out? Is it done as a distraction from the more important issues officials should be working on like health care, the economy, poverty, education and energy alternatives? I don’t know and I’m pretty sure there was no intended malice in the decision. However, I feel that this law was at least partially done for the first two and unintentionally succeeded in the fourth. There have definitely not been many cases of voter fraud historically. Twenty states proposed legislation this year, including Kansas, and the time spent on the law could have been used addressing more important problems.
However, what has been done cannot be unchanged, at least not any time soon. I am fortunate that the law will not affect me as much as new voters since I am already registered. I do feel the law to be needless, if not entirely then certainly in part. The reason given of protecting voters’ rights seems to be empty and meaningless, as legislators did not specify what rights were protected. I can say, however, that we should be concerned that the people we put in office just made it tougher for people to vote.

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