Failure to Communicate (cont.): Tech Issues Stall Kansas Proof-of-Citizenship

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[Image courtesy of TransGriot]

Back in November 2011, I blogged about problems in Washington State involving 21,000 voters who didn’t receive ballots because of a communication problem between the state’s motor vehicles bureau and election officials.

A similar issue has emerged recently in Kansas, where communication issues between the motor vehicles agency and election offices regarding proof-of-citizenship documents have left about one-third of applicants “in suspense” and unregistered. KansasCity.com has more:

Roughly one-third of all voter registration applications submitted in Kansas since Jan. 1 are in “suspense” because applicants could not provide proof of citizenship, but some say a flawed computer upgrade is responsible for most of the problem.

Six months after the state started requiring new voters to prove their citizenship, 11,101 people who attempted to register were considered unqualified to vote because of lack of proof of citizenship, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. During that period, 20,780 have been added to the voter rolls, according to figures provided by the Kansas secretary of state’s office

When people show proof of U.S. citizenship to get a driver’s license in Kansas, the documentation is not making it to election officials for voter registration purposes, said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew.

The specific problem, it appears, is an inability to share documents between DMV and election officials:

A $40 million upgrade to the computer system that handles driver’s licenses was supposed to allow the Division of Vehicles to store electronic copies of birth certificates and other documents proving a driver’s citizenship and transfer them to election officials, as needed.

That hasn’t happened yet, Shew said, and without the documents, election officials have to send letters and contact applicants to tell them their voter registration needs to be cleared up.

While the Secretary of State observes (likely correctly) that voters aren’t feeling any urgency to finish their registrations because of the length of time until a general election, local election officials are (justifiably) nervous about what this problem could mean as Election Day approaches:

“The large number … right now is a concern among election officers throughout the state. And that is just within a six-month time in an off season. What [will] that number look like in an election season?” Shew said.

It’s important to note that this isn’t really about proof-of-citizenship (a hot topic in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decision) – and regardless of how you feel about proof-of-citizenship, it is (I think) a good thing that state agencies are trying to share information to help citizens streamline their interactions with government. But the promise of that idea is only fulfilled when the communication necessary to make that sharing work actually occurs.

1 Comment on "Failure to Communicate (cont.): Tech Issues Stall Kansas Proof-of-Citizenship"

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