updated July 27, 2016
originally posted February 15, 2016

Alright my friends, the right to vote is becoming more and more complicated and by extension, more and more ridiculous. Here’s an update:

Voting is becoming more and more a function of each state’s Voter ID laws. And voter ID laws consistently include such severely limited acceptable forms of ID that it disenfranchises thousands of legally registered voters (Kansas, anyone?). Be advised, rarely are voter ID laws really about fraud. The ACLU’s statement here, PBS Frontline article here, and Probublica article here.

More importantly – A legally registered 93-year old woman’s difficulties explained here, a 66-year old man’s difficulties recounted here, and, particularly infuriating, a 53-year old veteran’s story documented here.

Kansas has become particularly nightmarish, in my humble opinion. There’s an ongoing push to to force new Kansas voters to produce a passport, a birth certificate or naturalization papers as proof of citizenship in order to vote. Please note, Federal Judge Julie Robinson “found that between 1995 and 2013, there were only three instances in Kansas when noncitizens had voted.” 

It is unclear what happens to Kansas voters who were registered prior to Jan. 1, 2013, when the new ID requirements took effect. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office website indicates that “if you are a new Kansas voter on and after January 1, 2013, [you must] include your U.S. citizenship document [with your application to register].” Common sense would say that those voters legally registered before Jan 1, 2013 are not required to produce a birth certificate, a passport or naturalization documents. However, common sense seems to have become the equivalent of a unicorn, especially in Kansas.

 KCUR, a local NPR station, is doing a phenomenal job of keeping up with it all. Their primer is here.

Remember when I mentioned Texas in my original post below? Turns out making it almost impossible to vote does have consequences.  The voter ID law in Texas has been ruled in violation of the Voting Rights Act“We cannot ignore that in passing SB 14, the Legislature carefully selected the types of IDs that would be required to vote,” Judge Catharina Haynes wrote for the court’s majority. “In doing so, the Legislature selected IDs that minorities disproportionately do not possess and excluded IDs that minorities possess in greater numbers, without providing sufficient justification for those choices.”

Over in Missouri, Governor Nixon has vetoed the photo id voting requirement. It’s not over yet, though. Missouri voters will now decide in November whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow for a photo ID requirement for voting. Background here.

Remember, wherever you vote, provisional ballots are an option for all but seven states. Essentially, a provisional ballot can be used whenever there’s a question about a voter’s eligibility. And many states have made it ridiculously easy to question a voter’s eligibility. The county clerk’s offices in each state have as many as two weeks to determine the registration status of each provisional ballot. So, to answer the obvious question — do provisional ballots get counted? Yes. Eventually.

Here’s the Kansas plan for provisional balloting. It’ a short read. And scary. The reason the state can “throw out  all of the votes for state and local races cast by the thousands of voters who register to vote at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of citizenship” is because The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the Motor Voter law) allows people to register to vote at DMV’s without having to produce the passport, a birth certificate, or naturalization papers Kansas wants to require. It’s legal. The state of Kansas, however, doesn’t want it to be (see above), and they plan to follow their state’s proposed addendum to count ballots for state and local races instead.

Bottom line, do your homework. Now. Physically go down to your Board of Elections (no calling, no looking up registrations online) and make them tell you you are eligible to vote. Then, be prepared to have to defend your right anyway. The Non-partisan Election Protection Coalition can help.

Then, as I’ve mentioned before (see below), share what you know. Check in with someone you know who is elderly, disabled, or anyone who might have problems obtaining a driver’s license or birth certificate and offer to help them exercise their right to vote.


After the death this weekend of Justice Antonin Scalia maybe you’re thinking I’m about to write a political piece on my candidate of choice, making a compelling (or not, depending on whether you agree with me) statement about why “my” candidate is the best for our country etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I’m not.

I am going to tell you I’m passionate about voting, for whichever candidate you choose, and I’m going to remind you to get registered, or check your registration to make sure you’re current. To check the voting laws in your state — some states are making voting less of a right and more of a privilege — and to be prepared to take with you whatever form of identification so you won’t be turned away at the polls. I’m also going to remind you to do your part to make voting easier for everyone around you. I wrote a post about doing just that here.

A reminder to get registered in February might seem a bit premature. Except that most states have presidential primaries between March and May (hey Kansas, your legislature is working to do away with primary voting because of the cost. The state has cancelled presidential primaries going back 2o years and this year’s doesn’t appear to be guaranteed). The Federal Voting Assistance Program has a handy chart listing the dates of all primaries across the country. Missouri’s primary is March 15th and voters must be registered to vote by February 17th.

After determining the date of the presidential primary, we head on over to our Secretary of State’s website. This is where we should be able to check our registration status and find out what else we need in order to cast our vote. In Missouri, checking your registration status works like this. In Kansas, it works like this, and in Minnesota it works like this

Next, we’re off to see what we need to take with us to the polls in order to actually be able to cast our ballot. Here’s where it gets tricky. In Missouri, the requirements are pretty straightforward, even including a visual of acceptable forms of ID.  Arizona, not so much. Mix and match? Seriously? Kentucky is even worse. After 10 minutes of searching “voting acceptable forms of id Kentucky” and “voter ID Kentucky”  this is the closest I got – a brochure printed in 2014. This site is pretty sobering. If the details outlined are up-to-date, there are some state governments whose intent seems to be to make it virtually impossible to vote (Texas, we’re looking at you). If you’re using this site, confirm any information you get with a phone call to your Secretary of State’s Office, just to be sure. In my case, I’m not above printing out a screen shot of my voter registration status and taking it with me to the polls, along with a utility bill proving residency AND my state issued Driver’s license. In today’s political climate I’m not about to stand in line for hours only to be told I don’t have the right form of ID.

Sample ballots can be obtained, sometimes. In Missouri for example, there are county boards of elections. In North Carolina, the sample ballots are posted by the State Board Of Elections.

From there, it’s all about making our choice. Non-partisan websites including,  VoteSmart.Org, Rock The Vote, and the League of Women Voters can provide a wealth of useful information.

And finally, my plea to you is to share what you know. Voting isn’t always easy, even for those of us without additional considerations. So share what you know about voter registration where you live, offer to drive someone to the polls, take a couple of minutes to talk voting with someone who will be voting for the very first time. And most importantly (to me) when you come across someone who has trouble reading, offer to review the ballot with them. Read about ways to help here.

Across the country, voting is being legislated into less of a right and more of a privilege. Do your homework and make sure you know the voting laws in your state and head out to vote prepared.  The bottom line is this: The more you want to know casting your vote in your state the more work you have to do. Which is why it’s crucial we don’t ever become apathetic. The harder it is to vote the more critical it is to vote. Taking a right away from people who don’t use it it much easier than wrenching it away from people who do.

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