Today, October 14, is the last day to register in Kansas for the Nov. 4 general election. Our hunch is, if you're reading this, you're already registered.
But if you are not registered: GET OFF THIS SCREEN AND FILL OUT A VOTER REGISTRATION FORM! Do it online right now! Be sure to follow the instructions.
We say this knowing that, lamentably, the task is easier said than done. And for that you can thank Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lead the effort nearly three years ago to complicate the voter registration process in the name of protecting Kansas from voter fraud. Never mind that so-called voter fraud is largely a myth: Voter fraud is mostly a myth - Washington Post.
If you do attempt to register today, you will discover that, in addition to filling out a voter registration form, you will also be required to prove you are a United States citizen. And if you don't have that proof, you will have to fill out another form to get that proof, usually a birth certificate. And if you don't have the $15 to get that birth certificate (assuming you were born in Kansas), well, the good news is you can get a free one. The bad news is you'll have to fill out another form.
We could go on. There are forms to fill out if you don't have the proper identification to show at the polls (another requirement); forms to fill out if you can't afford a non-driver's license ID; forms to fill out to prove you are a naturalized citizen. What you really need to know is that the act of voting in Kansas has become so complicated that it has had the very real effect of discouraging legal citizens from exercising their constitutionally protected right to vote.
Earlier this year, some 20,000 Kansans who had filled out voter registration forms were "suspended" because they failed to provide the proper proof. And in August, a 92-year-old woman and long-time voter born in Minnesota had to take her case all the way to the Kansas Election Board. The Board gave its blessing, but not until the woman's family unearthed an old family bible and dug up census records to prove the woman's status as a U.S. citizen: Family Bible saves voting day for 92-year-old woman - KCTV 5
Is this how we encourage voting in Kansas? Must we all become amateur historians before casting a ballot?
The bureaucratic labyrinth placed before prospective voters is nothing less than a cynical attempt to make voting a burden, especially for minorities and the poor--two populations that tend to vote against the interests of radical ideologues like Kobach.
We believe that voting is the foundation of a working democracy. We also believe that the more people who vote, no matter their political preferences, the healthier that democracy is. This is why MainStream urges its members to encourage their friends, family and neighbors to vote. It's why we do all we can to foster civil conversations and debates about the issues that effect the health of our communities. It's why we often join the hue and cry of other civic organizations that have very real concerns about voter apathy.
And it's why we are raising our voices now to decry all efforts--in Kansas and across the country--to restrict access to the voting booth. Our state's election officials should be doing all they can to stem voter apathy, not perpetuate it.