A flawed solution to an oversight

Not all high school photo IDs are equal

By The Mercury

Maybe Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach figured every Kansas high school student old enough to vote has a driver’s license and simply didn’t see this unpleasantness involving the validity of high school ID cards at polling places coming.

Maybe Mr. Kobach was too busy searching for elusive fraudulent voters in Kansas or too involved in other states’ immigration issues to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s in the state whose voters he has sworn to serve.

We doubt Mr. Kobach was trying to keep high school students — especially those who attend private schools — away from the polls, never mind that their youth puts them in the demographic that tends to support moderate and liberal causes. Our sense is that Mr. Kobach just goofed.

And to his credit, he seems — within the unnecessary law that he pushed through the Legislature — to be trying to minimize the harm. Because public schools are government entities, the student ID cards are government-issued. And although public high school ID cards aren’t among the group cited in the law acceptable, they’re close enough.

Private schools, however, are not government entities, and any of their students who are eligible to vote and who have been counting on using their student ID cards at polling places are out of luck. That most private school students old enough to vote also have driver’s licenses and could use those at the polls is noteworthy but beside the point. So is the statement of Mr. Kobach’s spokeswoman, Kay Kurtis, who said, “There is no data that currently shows that high school IDs have been or will be used under the SAFE Act in large numbers.”

Ms. Kurtis also said that next year, Mr. Kobach’s office will issue regulations outlining which forms of identification are acceptable. High school IDs aren’t the only forms of identification in the gray area; among others, for example, are public library cards that contain the members’ photos.

The Kansas voter ID law — the Safe and Fair Elections Act — isn’t the first law whose advocates’ zeal outweighed the thoughtful debate and consideration that should have preceded legislative votes. Such laws are too common.

Now that the SAFE Act is state law, however, lawmakers ought to zealously ensure that law-abiding citizens — whether they’re minority members, infirm, elderly or students in private or public high schools — don’t become casualties of the effort to eliminate voter fraud.

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