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Testimony of Catherine H.

Engelbrecht
Founder, True the Vote

Before the United States Commission on Civil Rights

The Impact of the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act on


Individual Civil Rights in Kansas

Presented on January 28, 2016

Statement of Catherine H. Engelbrecht


Founder, True the Vote
Before the United States Commission on Civil Rights
The Impact of the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act on Individual Civil Rights
in Kansas
Presented on January 28, 2016

Kansas Advisory Committee members and assembled guests: thank you very
much for inviting me to testify about the impact of the Secure and Fair Elections Act
(SAFE) on individual civil rights in Kansas. This testimony seeks to serve as an
affirmation of the policies enacted by Kansans elected officials and offer constructive
criticism with respect to future enforcement.
Allow me to begin with a few words about my background. In 2010, I led a small
collection of concerned citizens in the Houston, Texas area to found True the Vote. Our
early focus was simple: identify as many polling locations within our shared
neighborhoods that did not have adequate manpower in terms of election workers or
observers and personally fill those gaps. We witnessed a variety of irregularities and, in
some cases, outright election fraud. Nearly six years later, True the Vote has grown into a
national movement dedicated to educating and equipping voters to support election
integrity in their communities.
True the Vote has been a very public supporter of the election policy reforms
enacted by the State of Kansas in recent years. In fact, TTV regularly highlights Kansas
as holding a blueprint for electoral process; one that all other states can follow. Now,
thankfully, due to substantial public demand, photo voter identification, citizenship

verification in voter registration, and cooperative voter roll maintenance agreements are
being introduced and enacted around the nation.
Sadly, in states where laws like the SAFE Act are on the books, it is an
unfortunate fact that political leaders and third-party pressure groups use these common
sense processes as a way to hype the risks of voter suppression and depressed turnout,
especially when federal elections are approaching. In presidential election cycles past,
actual political strategy memos have been authored to guide local activists on best
practices to manufacture concerns of voter suppression for political advantage.1 Such
attitudes are either bigoted assumptions that discount the capabilities of voters to follow
the law or cynical efforts to keep those presumed helpless in state of perpetual
dependency for sustained political leverage.
True the Vote places its trust in the voters to understand and act within the law
when casting a ballot and they haven't let us down yet. It is for these reasons that TTV
offers the following four observations regarding the continued success of the SAFE Act.
1. The photo voter identification requirement for in-person and mail
balloting addresses election integrity concerns without depressing voter turnout.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Kansas' voter ID requirement, as
compared to other states, is the reciprocity given to valid driver licenses, concealed carry
permits, or official ID cards issued by any municipal, county, state or federal entity in the
country.2 In addition, voters may use a Department of Defense ID or U.S. Passport.
Students attending post-secondary institutions accredited in Kansas may use their campus

Kerry/Edwards strategy document: A Detailed Guide to Voting in Colorado (November 2004),


https://www.scribd.com/doc/110087645/CO-DNC-Election-Day-Manual
2
State of Kansas; Valid Forms of Voter Identification (Accessed January 2016),
http://www.gotvoterid.com/valid-photo-ids.html

IDs. Public assistance cards and tribal IDs are also welcome. Exemptions and
accommodations for retirement-age voters and those with disabilities have been made.
Native-born Kansans can access free ID and new Kansas residents can submit identifying
records with the ease of a text message.3
Kansas designed its voter ID requirement to be easy and intuitive - and recent
turnout figures continue to demonstrate its success.
In 2014, voters surpassed the State's expectations and outperformed national
trends by double digits. Compared to the rest of the states, Kansas ranked sixth in overall
turnout.
The breakdown of provisional ballots cast in 2014 is also a key indicator. The
percentage of provisional ballots from 2012 to 2014 fell from 3.3 to 2.3 percent.4 During
the most recent federal election, a total of 22,561 provisional ballots were cast in Kansas.
Of that total, only one percent lacked the documentation necessary for identification and
were not corrected by the voters in question.
Another unique attribute of the SAFE Act's identification requirement is found in
the mail balloting procedure. Legal scholars on both sides of the aisle have come to an
agreement that the most common form of voting fraud occurs in and around mail
balloting.5 In the past year alone, the results of seven municipalities elections in North
Carolina and Texas have been overturned, each in part due to mail ballot fraud.6 Whereas
3

Ibid.
Kansas Secretary of State; 2014 General Election Official Turnout/2012 General Election Official Turnout,
http://www.sos.ks.gov/elections/elections_statistics.html
5
NBC News; The real vote-fraud opportunity has arrived: casting your ballot by mail (9/25/2012),
http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/25/14092264-the-real-vote-fraud-opportunity-hasarrived-casting-your-ballot-by-mail
6
The Raleigh News & Observer; Five NC towns to hold 2015 elections again (1/20/2016),
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article55722610.html SEE ALSO:
The Robesonian; 2 new elections ordered (1/20/2016), https://robesonian.com/news/83625/2-new4

other states may spend years untangling plots to commit fraud via mail, the SAFE Act
offers Kansas the opportunity to maintain a proactive stance in blocking fraud before it
occurs. Kansas merging of ID requirements with mail balloting should be promoted
across the nation.
2. The citizenship verification component of voter registration is intuitive for
native born citizens and is expected by naturalized citizens.
True the Vote firmly holds that a simple attestation claiming U.S. citizenship is
not sufficient for voter registration. While the "Federal Form" for registration
promulgated by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission may accept such unverified
declarations, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona v. Arizona decision of 2013 has
sustained Kansas' constitutional interest in requiring proof.7
The SAFE Act addresses a well-established and scientifically poll-tested demand
for proof of citizenship. In March 2014, Rasmussen found that roughly 80 percent of
likely voters agreed on the need for proof of citizenship requirements.8 Broken down by
race, the same poll found that 65 percent of black voters and 78 percent of all other races,
classified by Rasmussen as Other, were also in support.

elections-ordered SEE ALSO: The McAllen Monitor; Lupe Rivera, Letty Lopez on Nov. 3 election ballot in
Weslaco (9/16/2015), http://www.themonitor.com/mvtc/news/lupe-rivera-letty-lopez-on-nov-electionballot/article_0f094c58-5cc8-11e5-ab38-0f483edba633.html
7
States must accept and use incoming federal forms and are empowered to verify applications using
additional data on hand. States are welcome to develop unique voter registration forms requiring
citizenship verification. Should states such as Arizona wish to seek amendments to state-specific
instructions on the federal form, the Supreme Court reinforced the need to follow EAC protocols. But
above all, the Court unmistakably affirmed a very specific power: Arizona is correct that the Elections
Clause empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them.
8
Rasmussen Reports; 78% Favor Proof of Citizenship Before Being Allowed to Vote (3/25/2014),
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/march_2014/78_favor_proo
f_of_citizenship_before_being_allowed_to_vote

The State of Kansas offers a wide variety of verifying documents, many of which
can be reproduced at no cost to the requestor and submitted via personal, mail and
electronic means.9
A common refrain among verification opponents is that such reforms may carry a
disparate impact among naturalized citizens. Such a sentiment belies the fact that similar
laws are found throughout the Western Hemisphere and across the globe. Any presumed
intent to suppress the voting rights is easily dashed by the shear predictability of the
requirement. In both Mexico and Canada, voters must document citizenship prior to
joining the local registry of voters.10 In fact, Mexico requires prospective voters to
provide proof of identity, citizenship, and residence to become a duly registered voter.
Since 1965, Kansas has seen consistent increases in both foreign-born and illegally
present residents.11 The SAFE Act's requirements serve a dual advantage of conforming

Valid Citizenship Documents: Birth certificate that verifies United States citizenship; United States
passport or pertinent pages of the applicant's valid or expired United States passport identifying the
applicant and the applicant's passport number; United States naturalization documents or the number of
the certificate of naturalization; Other documents or methods of proof of United States citizenship issued
by the federal government pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952; Bureau of Indian
Affairs card number, tribal treaty card number or tribal enrollment number; Consular report of birth
abroad of a citizen of the United States; Certificate of citizenship issued by the United States Bureau of
Citizenship and Immigration Services; Certification of report of birth issued by the United States
Department of State; American Indian card, with KIC classification, issued by the United States
Department of Homeland Security (Note: This document applies only to a small Texas band of the
Kickapoo tribe with slightly more than 50 members.); Final adoption decree showing the applicant's name
and United States birthplace; United States military record of service showing applicant's place of birth in
the United States; Extract from a United States hospital record of birth created at the time of the
applicant's birth indicating the applicant's place of birth in the United States; and Only if the agency
indicates on the applicant's driver's license or nondriver's identification card that the person has provided
satisfactory proof of United States citizenship, then a driver's license or nondriver's identification card
issued by the Kansas Division of Vehicles or the equivalent governmental agency of another state within
the United States.
10
True the Vote Comment on National Mail Voter Registration Form Update for AZ, GA, KS (EAC-20130004-0001), https://www.scribd.com/doc/241623279/2014-1-3-Eac-Public-Comment-Eac-2013-00040002-Final
11
Ibid.

to recognized international norms and inspiring confidence among both naturalized and
newly naturalized voters.
3. The suspended voter registration list generated by the SAFE Act
demonstrates a clear need for the verification process, yet exhibits room for
continued improvement.
In October 2014, True the Vote, in partnership with a private data integrity firm,
was granted access to a list of voter applications that were not processed due to
applicants having provided insufficient information.12 Case in point, more than 2,200 of
the 21,613 applications under review did not include the last four digits of their
corresponding Social Security numbers, as requested is for verification purposes. From
the remaining applications, a statistically appropriate sample was drawn to ensure a 95
percent confidence level and 4 percent confidence interval. Through the use of regression
driven algorithms, known fuzzy logic applications, and indexes designed to highlight
similarity/dissimilarity, it was determined that 41 percent of the files had at least one
factor prohibiting the State of Kansas from verifying and validating eligibility. It is
important to note that matching and analytic processing on all cases was accomplished in
less than 10 seconds and each individual application being evaluated in 14 milliseconds.
Four sets of critical factors were found to stall registration.
Critical Factor: Residency
12% had primary residency outside of Kansas
13% had unverifiable or fictitious addresses
Critical Factor: Citizenship
10% unverifiable due to fictitious application inputs
1% verified noncitizens

12

See exhibit 1

Critical Factor: Identity


29% gave unverifiable/fictitious date of birth
12% of population had SSN issues (incomplete information, stolen/false identity,
fictitious)
2% gave unverifiable names
Critical Factor: Felons
4% had felony records

Though these critical factors present very real concerns, the TTV study still found that 59
percent of those applications in question could in fact be validated and verified. It is for
this reason that we strongly encourage Kansas to continually seek efficiencies in the
process. The new 90 day removal rule13 for incomplete applications is a valuable step
towards encouraging prospective voters to cure their registrations in a timely manner, yet
this is only half of the equation. Adoption and adherence to available data science
techniques can substantially reduce the time between application and registration.
Furthermore, improved inter-departmental coordination between the Secretary of State
and other agencies with National Voter Registration Act responsibilities focused on
improved and complete data transmission will serve a great benefit to new registrants.
4. The SAFE Act Bolsters Voter Confidence.
Kansas, like all states, has a recognized interest in seeking election integrity reforms that
would bolster public confidence. In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the U.S.
Supreme Court held that the electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no
safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.14 The Court

13
14

K.A.R. 7-23-15 Incomplete applications for voter registration


Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd. 553 U.S. 181 (2008)

also found that laws like voter ID promote a states interest in encourag[ing] citizen
participation in the democratic process.15
In closing, True the Vote urges this Committee and the Commission to see the
SAFE Act for what it is: a modern, state-level approach to balancing access with integrity
in this increasingly mobile nation. Thank you very much for your time and continued
consideration.

15

Ibid.