Kansas voter ID bill an 'unfunded mandate,' opponents say

A proposed voter ID bill could be costly for Kansas and would make it more difficult to register to vote, opponents said Thursday.

House Bill 2067 would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID and give the secretary of state power to prosecute voter fraud. After winning approval in the House, it is being heard in the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections.

There would be far greater costs to prosecute election crimes than the bill provides, said Holly Weatherford, a program director for the American Civil Liberties Union. She said Missouri has spent $14 million over the past three years to prosecute crimes, and local governments have spent an additional $4 million.

"It amounts to an unfunded mandate for the state," she said.

Glenda Overstreet, a lobbyist for the NAACP, added that often in such cases, "fiscal implications are minimal at first, but become very substantial over time."

The state-generated fiscal note for HB 2067 estimates that the voter ID bill would cost $10,000 in 2011 for the development of a registration database. Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he didn't expect additional costs for prosecution because his existing legal personnel could absorb the workload.

Kobach said eight Kansas agencies now have independent prosecution authority. He added that the legislation could have been written in two ways — with a special assistant to the state attorney general prosecuting voter fraud or by empowering the secretary of state to do it. He said he deferred to Attorney General Derek Schmidt's wish that the job fall to the secretary of state.

"You all want to have confidence in election returns," Kobach said. "You don't want to have any questions that you won legitimately. Confidence in elections being fair is so essential to our democracy."

Opponents also challenged Kobach's claims that voter fraud is occurring and going unaddressed.

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