People confused by judge's ruling on DMV-registered voters

Published: Jul. 30, 2016 at 10:37 PM CDT
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Thousands of Kansas voters will be able to vote for local elected officials after a Friday ruling changes the way your county counts ballots. But it's also leaving some voters confused.

The change means more than four thousand additional Sedgwick County voters will be able to pick their state and local officials.

The change only applies to you if you registered to vote at the DMV after January 1st, 2013, and didn't provide proof of citizenship.

But the new ruling doesn't apply to everyone who fits that criteria.

24-year-old Rachael Henry, a US citizen, heard about the ruling and planned to go vote at Tuesday's primaries.

"I was like woah, I get to vote now," Henry said.

But it turns out she's still not eligible, and has to sit out this primary.

"It's so confusing," she said.

The ruling says people who registered to vote at the DMV after 2013, but didn't bring a passport or birth certificate, *can vote in local and state elections.

Henry says she registered in Johnston County in 2013, in July.

"I went to renew my license when I was turning 21 and registered to vote of course," she said.

She says no one asked her for proof of citizenship. "I filled out the paperwork and got the card, and they didn't ask me to submit anything else," she said.

Earlier this year, she moved back to Wichita and tried to update her address online, and found out she had to submit proof of citizenship.

Then the judge's ruling came on Friday.

"It said you didn't need to provide proof of citizenship to vote, so I said oh I can go," Henry said.

KWCH 12 and Henry spoke together with Sedgwick County's elections commissioner, Tabitha Lehman, twice to figure out if Henry can vote on Tuesday.

"You can, but you're not registered. So you can vote provisionally, but you don't fall into the category where the judge is saying it'll be counted... by law I can't count it, if she does go vote," Lehman said.

Turns out somehow in the move from Johnston to Sedgwick County, some information got lost, somewhere.

"It's confusing enough for us, it's confusing to explain to you, it's confusing to voters," Lehman said. "If you're not sure, go ahead and show up. You can cast that provisional ballot, and we'll get it sorted out here," she said.

Now that Henry knows her vote won't count Tuesday, she plans to stay home.

"Oh my gosh, I really wish it was just easy and I could go vote. It seems way more complicated than it needs to be," she said.

The proof of citizenship policy has changed several times in the past year and the elections commissioner says she wouldn't be surprised, if it changes again before November.

Voter Abi Stafford was also confused if the new policy impacts her. In a Facebook comment, she wrote:

"I live in Wichita and recently moved just from one zip code to another all still within the city limits. I was born in Wichita and have been a registered voter since age 18 with no problems. When I updated my address with the DMV I checked the box to update my voter registration as well. A couple weeks later I received a letter in the mail saying I needed to provide proof of citizenship to the Sedgwick County Election office. My husband got the same letter. Now why would I have to do that if I'm not a new voter and am simply just updating my address?"

KWCH 12 spoke with Stafford, and asked Lehman what happened in her case. Lehman said a glitch in the system caused a mistake.

"It looks like in her case when her registration came through online, it didn’t link to her original file. We caught it right after sending her the notice and merged the two files. She is active and good to go," Lehman said in an email.

Lehman reminds voters that they still need to bring a state-issued ID on Tuesday to vote.