Government
9:30 am
Thu November 1, 2012

Kansas Voter ID Law Faces Biggest Test

Requiring voters to show a photo ID has been a controversial issue in recent years with many states considering the requirement. 

A photo ID law got vetoed last year in Missouri, but Kansas lawmakers passed a measure last year requiring a photo ID when voting.  That law got its first test in August.

Critics of photo ID laws say they suppress voter turnout, especially for the elderly, minorities, and people with low incomes.  

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said that was not the case during the August.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“Voter turnout in our primary was actually above what we predicted and above normal,” said Kobach.

In the 2008 presidential primary, 22.5% of the registered voters cast a ballot.  That number pretty much held steady, rising a half percentage point in the August primaries.  

Kobach said the low number of problems and the decent turnout had to do with ads his office ran like this.

Kobach said because of thea ds only 400 people--one tenth of one percent of all voters in the primary--showed up without a photo ID.  They were allowed to cast a provisional ballot and come back with a photo ID later.  

Kobach said he expects a similar result next week in the November election.  

Ernestine Krehbiel with the League of Women Voters of Kansas said she still has concerns especially about elderly voters.

“It’s such a handicap on people who don’t drive because that means they not only don’t have the photo ID but it mean that they will have to find someone that will take them to the DMV and sit and wait,” said Krehbiel

Krehbiel recently helped a friend get a photo ID.  She said it was a 3 hour and 20 minute wait at the DMV and she worries that might discourage people with medical conditions or that have to take time off of work.  
Richard Gutierrez went to vote in August and didn’t think he would have any problems.

Richard Gutierrez.
Credit Maria Carter / KCUR

“I was surprised when the gal told me that my Driver’s License had expired. I said it doesn’t change the validity of the document that is who I am,” said Gutierrez.  

Gutierrez uses a motorized scooter to get around because of post-polio syndrome. The expired license wouldn’t work because he’s under 65.  He got a call the next day from the Douglas County Clerk’s office offering to help him get a photo ID.  They sent someone to his house with equipment.

“I just filled out the information and showed them what I had, and then they took a picture of me and that was it,” said Gutierrez.

It’s people like Gutierrez that Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew had in mind when he was setting up the county voter ID cards.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew.

“I saw the need in my community and put a system in place to meet that need,” said Shew.


The Douglas County system is mobile and issues IDs similar to many company or college IDs.  Shew says so far his office has issued 50.  He said it cost a couple of thousand dollars to set up but it’s worth it.   

“Because the bigger cost would have been if we didn’t have something in place and someone would not be able to vote.  The cost is their right to vote.”

The IDs meet federal and state guidelines. Kansas voters are reminded to bring a government issued ID to the polls.

In Missouri, a photo ID is not required.  Voters still have to prove who they are with a photo ID, voter registration card, utility bill, or bank statement.