By Lawrence Journal-World, July 11
It’s hard to imagine that any county clerk in Kansas is making a greater effort than Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew to help their residents get registered and vote.
Two years ago, Shew and his office were trying to help voters meet the new requirement to present a photo identification at the polls. For people who have a valid driver’s license that was easy enough. However, Shew heard from the operators of several nursing homes and similar facilities that some of their clients no longer had driver’s licenses and would find it difficult to go to a driver’s license office and wait in line to obtain a state-issued photo ID. To remedy that problem. Shew’s office began to issue its own photo ID cards that could be used at the polls.
About the same time, Shew’s office sent new cards to every registered voter in the county, telling them where to vote, what party they were registered with, the legislative and congressional districts in which they lived and the address listed on their registration. His goal was to eliminate any confusion triggered by redistricting and new election laws and give voters a chance to check their information and make sure their registrations were up to date and valid.
After the new law went into effect requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship when they registered to vote, Shew and his office have continued to go the extra mile. More than 600 Douglas County residents are among the 19,000 people whose voter registrations have been held up because they don’t include the proper citizenship documents. Shew said this week his office had tried to contact all of those people to let them know their registrations were incomplete.
In that process, Shew said he found some people who said they couldn’t afford to pay to get a copy of their birth certificate from another state. People born in Kansas can get copies of their birth certificate for free, but people born in other states must pay anywhere from $10 to $60 to obtain that document. Shew correctly saw that as unfair discrimination against non-Kansas natives and decided to help remedy the situation. His office not only is making itself available to help people obtain citizenship documents, it is offering to help people of limited means pay for those documents. That’s only five people so far, and Shew thinks it will be easy enough for his office’s budget to absorb the cost of providing that help. Within reason, it’s money well spent in support of fairness and the democratic process.
The net result of Shew’s efforts will be to increase the number of Douglas County voters who are properly registered to cast their ballots in the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election. Encouraging voter participating is an important role for any county clerk. Shew obviously is taking that responsibility very seriously. We hope other county clerks across the state will follow his lead and that Douglas County voters will repay his efforts by turning out in record numbers for the upcoming elections.