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Most Kansas voters whose registrations are in limbo claim no party affiliation

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WICHITA, Kansas — A majority of the 22,394 suspended Kansas voters who currently would be unable to cast a legal ballot this election because of the state's proof-of-citizenship law claim no political affiliation, the Secretary of State's office said Wednesday.

The state's data show that 57.2 percent of registrations still on hold come from 12,822 voters who listed themselves as unaffiliated. That is a far higher percentage than the 30.2 percent of unaffiliated voters among the state's 1.7 million registered voters.

The deadline is Nov. 3 for voters whose registrations are in limbo to submit the necessary citizenship documentation in order for their votes to be counted in the general election.

The number of suspended voters is particularly significant in a year with several tight national and statewide races on the Nov. 4 ballot. One contest with national implications for control of the U.S. Senate is the close race between incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and independent Greg Orman.

Beyond the outsized impact on unaffiliated voters, the proof-of-citizenship law that took effect in January appears to be impacting Democrats more than Republicans.

Kansas has long been a reliably red state with 44.6 percent of its registered voters calling themselves Republicans. But a breakdown by party affiliation on the suspension list shows just 22 percent are registered Republicans, accounting for 5,069 voters.

While Democrats make up 24.5 percent of all registered voters in Kansas, they comprise 18 percent of on-hold voters, 4,070 in total. Although it's a smaller number overall, that total is a greater proportion of the Democrats' overall voting bloc.

Voter registrations from 383 Libertarians also are in suspension, representing 1.7 percent of voters on the suspension list. Statewide, Libertarians account for 2.1 percent of all registered voters.

The Kansas law that took effect in January requires new voter registrants to provide a birth certificate, passport or other document proving their U.S. citizenship. Suspended voters who try to vote without submitting the necessary citizenship documents are given a provisional ballot, but their votes are not counted.

One reason the documentation requirements for new voters are seemingly impacting unaffiliated voters the most is because most of them are young people, said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew. Douglas County did a demographic study of its 922 suspended voters and found that 53 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 24.

Many are first-time voters who are registering during voter drives on college campuses and high schools, Shew said. That caused a noticeable jump in the numbers of voters on the suspension list in the past month and a half.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach said he expects perhaps a thousand people whose registration is incomplete to submit their citizenship documentation and get off the list between now and the election. Kobach said it is "their own choice" that they have not completed their registration.

"It is disproportionately young — over half are under the age of 28. But that is not unexpected," Kobach said. "You're going to see people who are moving into the state for college. You're going to see some people who are becoming voters for the first time, and for whatever reason they didn't get their proof of citizenship."


Associated Press writer John Hanna contributed to this report from Topeka.

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