Do you need a passport to register to vote? In some states, you just might. Voters in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia are required to prove citizenship when they register to vote, using either a birth certificate or a passport.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been fighting for years to require citizens to submit proof of citizenship when they register. In 2011, the state passed the Secure and Fair Elections Act. One of its requirements, which became effective in 2013, was that Kansas residents must submit proof of citizenship to register to vote.
Sounds fair, right? Opponents of the law note that voter fraud is not a significant problem in the US at this time. Research indicates it’s almost nonexistent. In fact, Kobach’s own research examined 84 million votes from 22 states and only found 14 cases worth prosecuting, according to the Washington Post.
Citizens Caught in the Crossfire
Meanwhile, the law has made registering to vote more confusing, resulting in real US citizens getting kicked off the voter rolls. For example, the Washington Post interviewed Air Force Veteran Ralph Ortiz, one of approximately 37,000 Kansas residents who were purged from the list of eligible voters.
In Ortiz’ case, he registered to vote when he got his driver’s license, and nobody asked him to present his passport or his birth certificate. In fact, nobody mentioned the requirement at all. When he found out he was no longer registered to vote, he told the Washington Post:
“I was shocked,” said Ortiz, a 35-year-old father of four who was born in New York. “I defended my country for 13 years. I own a home here in Kansas. I pay taxes in Kansas. I register my vehicles in Kansas. I’m a veteran who’s registered with the VA. There were many different avenues for them to figure out that I was a U.S. citizen. It was insulting.”
Ortiz is currently a plaintiff in the ACLU’s latest lawsuit against the state of Kansas.
Whether the law has merit or not, it appears it is not being implemented appropriately if people are not being informed of the requirements when they register. As Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters, told the Washington Post,
“Voters should not have to face an obstacle course in order to participate in our democracy.”
How to Get Proof of Citizenship
Proof of citizenship is being required more frequently than ever these days. It’s a good idea to have a copy of your birth certificate stored somewhere safe. If you’ve lost your copy, you can get a new one from the Department of Vital Records where you were born, or you can order through VitalChek.com.
A US passport can be used as both photo ID and proof of US citizenship, and you’ll need one to travel internationally. If you’ve never applied before, here’s how to go about it:
If you’re renewing, follow the instructions here:
Don’t forget to allow at least six weeks for regular service and at least three weeks for expedited service. If you need your passport sooner, make an appointment at the nearest regional Passport Agency or use an expediting company like RushMyPassport for fast, convenient service.
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