New Law Requires Photo ID, Proof of Citizenship to Vote in Kansas

By Susan Jones | April 25, 2011 | 11:33 AM EDT

( - Voters in Kansas will need to show a photo ID the next time they go to the polls.

In a signing ceremony last week, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill to protect the integrity of elections, he said: "We must be able to accurately and fairly discern the will of the people of Kansas."

While Gov. Brownback said the new law establishes "reasonable steps" to protect the rights of citizens, the American Civil Liberties Union called it a "giant leap backwards."

The new Kansas law requires photo ID from all in-person voters at every election. People submitting mail-in ballots must include either a copy of their photo ID or the number from the photo ID card. The law also requires proof of citizenship – a birth certificate, for example -- for new voters who register on or after Jan. 1, 2013.

The ACLU complains that the new law offers free birth certificates only to Kansas-born residents, while residents born out-of-state "would bear the financial burden and trouble of contacting their home states to attain birth certificates" to meet the new law's requirements. "The costs associated with meeting the new law's requirements are especially burdensome to low-income voters," the ACLU added.

The group says Kansas' new voter ID law undermines efforts to expand the right to vote to "historically marginalized groups" such as racial minorities, low-income voters, the disabled, and senior citizens. It also rejects the argument that a photo ID will bar illegal immigrants from voting in Kansas. It says there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud.

Only 41 percent of eligible people voted in the 2010 general election, but Kansas' Republican leaders "apparently think that number is too high," the ACLU said.

The group accused Gov. Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach of preferring a system where voting is a privilege secured "by jumping through hoops."

"Theirs is an extremely nearsighted view of just how difficult it will be for remote, marginalized, and under-resourced individuals to obtain a valid photo ID and evidence of citizenship," the ACLU said.

But Secretary of State Koback said Kansas has accomplished something truly extraordinary with its voter ID law: "No other state in the union does as much to secure the integrity of the voting process," Kobach said.

According to the ACLU, 32 state legislatures have introduced similar photo ID bills this year.