Lee Albee never thought signing up to vote would be so cumbersome.
Earlier this year, the Overland Park man registered to vote when he renewed his license at the motor vehicle office. It was supposed to be easy. It wasnt.
Weeks later, the Johnson County election office notified Albee he needed to prove citizenship with a birth certificate or a passport if he wanted to register.
As it turned out, no one had asked him for those documents at the DMV office. Now he doesnt have the time to follow up.
Theyre making it incredibly difficult, Albee said. Its a pain in the tush.
Albee is among 15,622 Kansans who had their voter registrations set aside until they can prove their citizenship under a new Kansas law that started this year. About 30 percent of those suspended registrations were in Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties.
Most of the hiccups occur at the states motor vehicle offices, where drivers complain they arent being asked for citizenship documents when they register to vote. Almost nine in 10 of the voters who had their registrations suspended signed up to vote at the DMV.
The new law, which was pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requires first-time voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering.
Anyone registered to vote on Jan. 1 of this year was grandfathered in and doesnt have to prove citizenship.
Kobach argued the law was needed to prevent voter fraud and preserve the integrity of the states elections.
Critics say its designed to suppress voter registration. The say claims of voter fraud are overblown.
The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to challenge the law, saying its essentially identical to an Arizona law that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional.
What this law has done has made it very difficult for ordinary citizens to get registered to vote even though theyre citizens, said Doug Bonney, chief legal counsel for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.
Meanwhile, Kobach is fighting back, filing his own lawsuit aimed at bringing the Kansas law into compliance with the Supreme Courts decision.
Kobach said the law was written to ensure that it wouldnt hinder people from registering to vote.
Theres nothing difficult at all, he said, about proving your citizenship if you are a U.S. citizen.
Meanwhile, a pair of Wichita Democrats plan to introduce legislation that would allow voters to sign affidavits stating theyre citizens. If they lie, they could be charged with a felony. The bill is unlikely to gain traction this year.
Prospective voters interviewed by The Star even those who had their registration suspended generally believe the intent of the law is good.
I think its absolutely understandable, said Grace Nicholson, a 19-year-old Overland Park woman who registered to vote on the University of Kansas campus but didnt provide the required documents because she wasnt asked. If you dont live permanently in the country, I dont think people should have the right to participate in voting.
But even those who see the laws good intent say it can bring headaches.
Voters whove had their registration held up said requiring proof of citizenship adds paperwork and eats up precious time, especially if someone isnt asked for their documents when registering. At that point, many move on.