The Douglas County clerk says his office will offer financial assistance to residents who need an out-of-state birth certificate to prove their citizenship and comply with Kansas' voter identification law.
County Clerk Jamie Shew says the current law creates two classes of Kansans: Those who were born in-state and can get a free birth certificate, and those who were born out-of-state and must pay to get a birth certificate.
"If you were born in another state, you're on your own to pay for your document," Shew says. "I really felt if we're going to provide a free document to one set of citizens, it really should be equitable for the other set of citizens."
Shew says his office is waiting for proof-of-citizenship documents from about 600 new voters, most of whom will be able to supply the necessary paperwork on their own. But he says for some people, the $10 to $60 other states charge for a birth certificate is a significant burden.
"In my opinion, even one person, if we have the ability for them to be able to vote, it's worth it," Shew says. "Our job is to remove any barriers for them to be part of the democratic process."
Shew estimates the program might end up costing Douglas County about $1,000, which he'll draw from funds already allocated to helping comply with the new voter identification law. He says the new has created a lot of paperwork and expense for his office and other county clerks across the state.
Kansas voters lacking citizenship papers also can appeal to the State Election Board for permission to vote. The secretary of state, lieutenant governor and attorney general sit on that panel. But Shew said many Douglas County residents didn't like the idea of allowing three elected officials determine their voting eligibility, so he wanted to provide an alternative.