Kobach: Voter ID law working; education campaign to start in Wichita

Secretary of State Kris Kobach

TOPEKA — Secretary of State Kris Kobach said this morning that the first test of the state’s new voter ID law in Cimarron didn’t dampen turnout and that only one person didn’t have an ID at the polls – and that person left her ID at home on purpose in a show of opposition to the law.

Kobach told the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections that the Cimarron case provides a bit of evidence that the law works.

But it faces a much bigger test in Wichita on Feb. 28 when city voters decide whether to allow the city to use $2 million in subsidies for the planned Ambassador Hotel, a 117-room, $22.5 million hotel proposed for the former Union National Bank building at Douglas and Broadway.

Kobach said his office plans to start running public service announcements on TV and radio to educate voters about the law starting Feb. 1. Then it will buy TV, radio and print ads to further get the word out about the law in the eight days leading up to the Feb. 28 vote. Kobach said the education campaign in Wichita — and future voter education this spring and leading up to the primary and general election — is funded by $300,000 the state received from the Help America Vote Act.

Here’s some background from a previous story in The Eagle: http://www.kansas.com/2011/12/28/2155500/wichita-hotel-vote-will-test-states.html

Meanwhile, concern has arisen over access to free birth certificates for the purpose of voting as reports filter in that some people requesting certificates have been turned away or told they’d have to pay at least $15 for a copy.

Kobach said there was confusion on whether the free birth certificates for voting purposes would be available Jan. 1, 2013, when the proof of citizenship provisions of the law kick in or on Jan. 1, 2012, when other aspects of the law went into effect. Kobach said he clarified to county officials last week that the certificates should have been available starting this year.

The certificates could be an issue this year for someone who doesn’t have any qualifying ID and goes to the department of motor vehicles in hopes of getting a non-driving identification card in order to vote. Kobach said the new law provides for multiple forms of ID to get a non-driving ID card and that he doubts many, if any, people would fit that hypothetical situation.

Kobach said he told county clerks about the birth certificate availability last week.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said that the birth certificate requirement seemed to be a “poll tax,” but said she wasn’t aware the bill that became law had provisions for free birth certificates. She said one person who presented a birth certificate asking for a free non-driving ID was turned away in Sedgwick County.

Kobach said his office is trying to educate everyone about how free access to IDs works. He said the law allows people to apply for free birth certificates at county offices and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s bureau of vital statistics. It’s unclear if those offices are prepared to process applications right now.