WICHITA, Kan. — Democrats and voting rights advocates are ramping up voter registration drives across Kansas in the wake of recent court rulings allowing thousands of people to more easily register with a federal form or at motor vehicle offices without providing citizenship documents.
But the state’s Republican Party contended Monday that those court cases are “practically irrelevant” to the November election, because few of those registrants actually come out to vote.
“We don’t put a lot of party emphasis on registration — one because our numbers are so high, and two it tends to take care of itself,” said Kansas GOP Executive Director Clay Barker said.
Republicans comprise 45 percent of the state’s 1.76 million registered voters. Unaffiliated voters make up 29 percent of the electorate, while Democrats trail with 25 percent. The deadline in Kansas to register for the November election is Oct. 18.
“High voter turnout is always helpful to us in the Democratic Party,” said Cheyenne Davis, the party’s Kansas field director.
The Republican-led Legislature in Kansas passed a law that since January 2013 has required documentary proof of U.S. citizenship — such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers — to register to vote. But recent court decisions have blocked Kansas from requiring those documents from people who register when getting their driver’s license or when using the national form, which simply requires people to attest they are citizens.
The Kansas Democratic Party website links to the national form, while the state’s GOP’s website has no links to any voter registration form.
“To each their own, I suppose,” Davis said of GOP efforts. “Obviously these laws were put in place by people in their party.”
When a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., last month blocked Kansas from requiring citizenship documents for federal form registrants, it noted the number of voters successfully registered by the League of Women Voters fell by more than 85 percent in three counties, nearly 70 percent in another, and two other counties suspended all registration efforts.
In the wake of that decision, the League is now advising its volunteers to register people using the federal form in its registration drives at universities, high schools, churches, retirement homes, naturalization ceremonies and other drive locations.
“Volunteers are willing to go out now — it has increased activity tremendously,” said League co-president Carole Neal.
Kansas Democrats, who have been using the federal registration form since 2015, are also boosting their voter registration efforts at farmers markets, community festivals, canvassing efforts and phone outreach.
Federal law also requires county election offices to make the national form available to registrants.
National Voter Registration Form: http://bit.ly/2dcxN7A