TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Managers of some Kansas nursing homes say they are concerned that their residents might not have the paperwork required to vote under the state’s new voter identification laws.
State election officials are working with the nursing homes to help residents navigate the new system, and the Topeka Capital-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/NteO5Z) residents of Westview Manor in Peabody have had their issues resolved. But other homes are waiting for help from the secretary of state or county officials.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Monday that his office has asked county election officers to help nursing homes and their residents comply with new voter ID and proof of citizenship laws.
“It’s nothing special,” Kobach told The Associated Press. “We will give the same attention to any facility that we learn has residents that need help.”
The Peabody home was familiar to some legislators who heard testimony from Westview Manner’s executive director Bonita Robertson-Boyston. She appeared in February before committees and testified that only nine of the home’s 51 residents had an ID, and she feared the others wouldn’t be able to vote in 2012.
Rep. Bob Brookens, a Marrion Republican who represents Westview’s residents, and Topeka Democratic Rep. Ann Mah cited the facility during debate. But last month, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker arranged for the facility’s Kansas-born residents to go to the courthouse and for the county election officials to go to Westview to get residents’ photographs taken.
“We’re very glad that they’ve helped us,” Robertson-Boydston said. “I am concerned about the other nursing homes in the state.”
Jil Godfrey, director of Brighton Place West in Topeka, said she would welcome assistance for residents who vote regularly. Few of the facility’s 50 residents have proper identification required by the new law.
“The only ones would be the veterans,” Godfrey said. “In fact, not all of our veterans have IDs either. It does concern me. It’s something we really need to have done facility-wide.”
In some cases, the secretary of state’s office has sent voter education materials directly to 15 organizations that serve the elderly, spokeswoman Kay Curtis said.
Mah suggested that Westview Manor got help because its situation was known publicly in Topeka and to avoid having a lawsuit filed. She said state officials should go to every nursing home and assisted living facility in Kansas to help residents comply.
“Rucker arranged for someone from the courthouse to come down and take pictures of people born out of state so they could get their IDs,” Mah said. “Is he going to do that for the thousands of seniors born out of state who don’t have IDs? Or just the ones he wants to silence?”
Kobach said that if staff from the Topeka office can’t travel to a nursing home or other facility to help, county election officials were asked to provide assistance. He said residents had several options, including going on a permanent advanced ballot list so they wouldn’t have to show an ID to participate in each election.
Registered voters are eligible for a free photo ID if they sign an affidavit stating they lack one that would qualify them to vote. They may apply for a non-driver ID card if they have proof of identity and proof of residence. Those who lack proof of identity but were born in Kansas may apply for a free birth certificate. If they don’t have proof of identity and weren’t born in Kansas, they must apply for a state voter ID card with the secretary of state’s office.
Kobach and other Republicans nationwide have advocated for the new voting laws to reduce the likelihood of voter fraud. But critics say the additional requirements could act to suppress voter participation and that instances of fraud are rare.