Those Republican primaries in Michigan and Arizona got all the attention, but Tuesday was also an election day here in Wichita, Kansas. The only item on the ballot was a referendum on the city’s plan to give several million dollars of bed tax money to some developers who are proposing to build a downtown hotel, but that was sufficient to get us out of the house and down to the neighborhood polling place.
This was the first election since a new state law went into effect requiring a photo identification card to vote, so we were slightly surprised when the nice lady at the folding table asked to see a driver’s license. The law is intended to assure that only eligible citizens are allowed to vote, and doesn’t seem an onerous imposition, so we resisted the brief temptation to say “Lo siento, no hablo a Inglés” and simply provided the requested license. Moments later we were sanding at a computer screen, slightly disappointed that the ballot didn’t offer a “hell no” option but generally satisfied that our rights had been respected.
As we grabbed an “I Voted” sticker from a plastic bowl on our way out we overheard some of the voters in line grousing about the new rules, with one imitating a Nazi soldier demanding “Show me your papers,” presumably referring to the nice lady at the folding table, and another wishing harm on Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State who authored the law and a man much hated by what there is of a Kansas left. Judging by the comments, as well as their calculatedly hip attire, we took them for the sorts of liberals who believe the government should be able to dictate your choice of health insurance plans, light bulbs, and any number of other things, but draw the line at government asking voters to show a driver’s license, lest the dark night of fascism descend on Kansas.
While rewarding ourselves for our performance of civic duty with a beer at a local tavern we saw the bartender ask a youthful-looking customer for a driver’s license, and when the fellow wasn’t able to provide one he was shooed away. In an ensuing conversation with the bartender we discovered that he was a “yes” voter, but were pleased to hear that he didn’t think the new driver’s license requirement was a big deal.
We were also pleased to hear later in the evening that the “no” votes had prevailed, and by a landslide. The “yes” side was better funded, out-advertised the “no” faction by a least two-to-one on the local airwaves, and filled local mailboxes with promises of jobs galore if the plan were approved, but it’s becoming harder to convince taxpayers to sanction governmental “investments” in matters that have traditionally been better attended to by the private sector. Much of the credit for the outcome goes to our good friends at the invaluable Voice for Liberty in Wichita web site, as well as the local branch of the Americans for Prosperity group.
— Bud Norman