In light of the recent voter registration law, there has been a new surge of effort to mobilize students to get to the polls. The Secure and Fair Elections Act states that voters wishing to register in the state of Kansas must present proof of citizenship along with photo identification.
While other documentation is acceptable, a birth certificate is the most common. For some students, this documentation may not be on hand.
For Democratic Kansas secretary of state candidate Jean Schodorf, students’ right to vote is a top priority.
“I’m on this statewide voter registration tour to encourage college students to become lifelong voters,” Schodorf said. “The reason is the current voting law has disenfranchised certain groups of people. Usually, college students do not have a birth certificate on campus to be able to show and register to vote.”
Schodorf traveled to colleges across the state participating in voter registration drives to help students through the process of registering to vote, encouraging them to become involved in local and state politics. Schodorf visited K-State’s campus last Wednesday evening. While typically young voters are more inclined to vote democrat, Schodorf said that had little to no impact on her desire to lead the voter registration drive.
“I come from a non-partisan background and I believe that it is every citizen’s responsibility and right to vote,” Schodorf said. “On this trip, on campuses, I have not been coming as a candidate. I’ve not said ‘vote for me’ or anything like that. I think a secretary of state needs to be fair and impartial and non-partisan. The goal here is just to increase voter registration. And this is a way to show what I will do as secretary of state.”
Student voter mobilization is also a top priority for the Student Governing Association. On Tuesday, SGA partnered with Manhattan Good Neighbors and the League of Women Voters to host a voter registration drive. SGA also plans to hold another voter registration drive Sept. 29-30 and again on Oct. 1. Student Sen. Asher Gilliland, junior in business administration, led the movement to help mobilize the student body and encourage them to make their voices heard at the polls.
The development of the new voter registration law was headed by the current secretary of state, Kris Kobach. Intended to help ensure that voting was done legally and protect honest elections, the changes have made headaches for some students.
“Registering to vote was just such a hassle,” Jessica Jackson, junior in finance, said. “I didn’t care that much to begin with and I’m not informed enough to really be making decisions, so I didn’t waste my time.”
However for other students, the hassle was worth the right to vote. Caelan Blair, freshman in pre-professional secondary education, said even though she had to go to two different towns to get all of her paperwork finished, the privilege of voting wasn’t one she was willing to give up on.
“Every aspect of people’s lives are affected by the decisions made at all levels of government, from local to state to national,” Blair said. “Students should be concerned about the funding for their college and their student financial aid, at least. It is important to become an active voter member when you are young so that you can have a say in the type of world your family will grow up in.”
Schodorf proposed that the responsibility of checking driver’s licenses for legality be moved back on the state, instead of requiring voters to present their birth certificate. Voter registration is mandated under the secretary of state and, if elected, Schodorf said she hopes to see the new rules repealed and the state take responsibility for ensuring legal and honest elections.
“The current secretary of state (Kris Kobach) is trying to suppress voters and young people are discouraged,” Schodorf said. “I’m trying to encourage young people, college students, to make the commitment to get out and become lifelong voters.”
While the new law does put voters responsible for ensuring legal elections and keeping their documentation, not everyone thinks that is a problem.
“I am pleased with his work in ensuring that we have all legal voters in the state and ensuring that we have an honest election,” Blair said. “It is never okay to break the law, it defeats the purpose of all we are founded on. Kobach made the right decision in cleaning up the Kansas voter registration.“