Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2014

Douglas County Clerk’s Office to help residents secure birth certificates needed for voter registration

Douglas County Courthouse

Douglas County Courthouse

July 10, 2014

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew on Wednesday announced an effort to cure what he says is an inequity in the state law that requires people who are registering to vote to provide a birth certificate to prove U.S. citizenship.

Under the law, a citizen born in Kansas is eligible for a free copy of his or her birth certificate for voter registration, but those born out of the state must pay anywhere from $10 to $60 to get the document.

Shew said that is not fair. "There is an inequity in what is provided for citizens born in state and those born out of state. A large percentage of our citizens have made Douglas County their home though they were born in another state," Shew said.

So, Shew said his office will help pay for the necessary documentation for people who say they cannot afford to pay for it.

"By providing additional resources, all voters in our county will receive equitable treatment in completing their access to the democratic process," he said.

Statewide, there are approximately 19,000 voters whose voter registrations are incomplete because proof of citizenship hasn't been completed. Those voters have until Aug. 4 to provide proof so they can vote in the Aug. 5 primary election.

In Douglas County, there are more than 600 people whose registrations are incomplete.

Shew said his office has tried to contact all of those people. In the process, he said, he has found about five people who say that they cannot afford to pay to get a copy of their birth certificate from another state.

"Even if it's just those five, I think it's important because every single voter should have the same access to the process as other voters in the county," he said. He said he believes the cost to provide financial assistance to help people get their birth certificates from other states will not be that much and can be handled within his current budget.

Under the law, a prospective voter lacking documentation can complete an affidavit asking the State Elections Board, which is composed of the secretary of state, lieutenant governor and attorney general, to review his or her case and make a decision on citizenship acceptance. But Shew said he has heard complaints from people who said they have a problem seeking voter acceptance from a board that consists of people who are on the ballot seeking election.

Anyone in Douglas County needing assistance to obtain citizenship documents for voter registration can contact the Douglas County clerk's office at 832-5267 or at elections@douglas-county.com.

The proof of citizenship requirement has become a major issue during the current election season.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, was a major proponent of the law, saying it is needed to prevent voter fraud. His GOP primary opponent, Scott Morgan, opposes the law, saying Kobach's assertions of voter fraud are overblown. Democratic secretary of state candidate Jean Schodorf has proposed allowing those voters whose registrations are on hold to vote in the primary and general elections and accept the federal voter registration form, which requires signing a sworn statement of citizenship instead of having to show proof.

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