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Finding votes
Expanding opportunities to participate improves the democratic process
Life on the Ark.jpg

Picture this: It’s election day, and you want to take a few minutes to vote over the lunch hour. There’s a polling place near where you work, but you live in another town and your assigned voting precinct is much further away.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could cast your ballot at any polling place in the county? A law passed in 2019 would allow Kansas voters to do just that — but not until Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab finishes the rule-making process. According to the Wichita Eagle, that law, intended to make voting easier in Kansas, is likely to be delayed by red tape until 2023, even though Sedgwick County officials indicate they could handle the change.

Kris Kobach held the office of Secretary of State before Schwab. He also had a history of making it more difficult for Kansans to vote. Last year, a federal appeals court affirmed a lower court’s decision that a Kobach-crafted law that took effect in 2013 was unconstitutional and violates the National Voter Registration Act. That law required anyone registering to vote in Kansas to provide documentation of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate or a passport. While Kobach and Schwab argued that barriers were needed because noncitizens were voting illegally, the three-judge panel on the appeals court said they “failed to show that a substantial number of noncitizens successfully registered to vote.”

What the law did accomplish, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, was that it blocked 30,000 Kansans from registering to vote.

From 2011-2019, thanks to Kobach, Kansas participated in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program. Registered voters’ names and birth dates were compared with the names and birth dates of registered voters in other states. Bring in the ACLU again for another lawsuit; Scott Moore from Kansas said there’s another Scott Moore in Florida — not him. The crosscheck program produced false positives more than 99% of the time. But during the process, officials sent emails that may have inadvertently exposed voters’ personal information.

All of these unnecessary efforts made it more difficult for people to vote, sometimes exposed their personal information, and added to the myth that elections are somehow being “stolen.” 

Cyberattacks pose a bigger threat to elections than voter fraud. Fortunately, America spent the past four years beefing up election security to win the battle in that never-ending war in 2020, keeping our elections secure. As reported in Slate, since 2018, Congress has invested roughly $1.2 billion to secure our elections – including money providedto states in 2020 to make adjustments to run elections safely and securely in the midst of the pandemic.

Sadly, attempts to steal votes will never end and we must continue to stay one step ahead of those who would undermine our elections. While bolstering security, we should encourage more citizens to participate. Making it more difficult for citizens to vote does not help, it hinders the cause of defending democracy.