KS Cannot Require Citizenship Proof 06/19 06:20
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A federal judge ruled Monday that Kansas cannot
require documentary proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote, finding such
laws violate the constitutional right to vote in a ruling with national
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson is the latest setback for
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has championed such laws and led
President Donald Trump's now-defunct voter fraud commission. The 118-page
decision came in two consolidated cases challenging a Kansas voter registration
law requiring people to provide documents such as a birth certificate, U.S.
passport or naturalization papers.
The decision strikes down the Kansas proof-of-citizenship registration law
and makes permanent an earlier injunction that had temporarily blocked it.
In an extraordinary rebuke, the judge also ordered Kobach on Monday to
complete an additional six hours of legal education on top of other
requirements before he can renew his law license for the upcoming year. She
imposed the sanction for his numerous disclosure violations.
Kobach said his office would appeal the judge's "extreme conclusion," which
he said was unlikely to survive scrutiny by a higher court.
"Her conclusion is incorrect, and it is inconsistent with precedents of the
U.S. Supreme Court," Kobach said in a statement.
No other state has been as aggressive as Kansas in imposing
proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements. Alabama and Georgia have
proof-of-citizenship laws that are not currently being enforced, according to
the American Civil Liberties Union. Arizona is the only other state with a
similar law in effect, but that law is far more lenient and allows people to
satisfy it by writing their driver's license number on the voter registration
The lead case filed by the ACLU on behalf of several named voters and the
League of Women Voters is centered on the National Voter Registration Act,
commonly known as the Motor Voter Law, which allows people to register to vote
when applying for a driver's license. The case required Kobach to prove that
Kansas has a significant problem with noncitizens registering to vote.
Robinson found the Kansas law disproportionately impacts qualified voters,
while only nominally preventing noncitizen voter registration.
"It also may have the inadvertent effect of eroding, instead of maintaining
confidence in the electoral system given the confusing, evolving, and
inconsistent enforcement of (documentary proof of citizenship) laws since
2013," she wrote.
Her ruling also encompassed a less publicized legal challenge filed by
Kansas voter Parker Bednasek, which is not limited to motor-voter applicants
cited in the ACLU and therefore affects all Kansas voters.
Kobach, a conservative Republican who is running for governor, was a leading
source for Trump's unsubstantiated claim that millions of immigrants in the
country illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.
"This decision is a stinging rebuke of Kris Kobach, and the centerpiece of
his voter suppression efforts: a show-me-your-papers law that has
disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans," Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's
Voting Rights Project, said in news release. "That law was based on a
xenophobic lie that noncitizens are engaged in rampant election fraud."
The cases have drawn national attention because of its implications for
voting rights as Republicans pursue laws they say are aimed at preventing voter
fraud but critics contend target Democratic-leaning minorities and college
students who may not have such documentation.
"Kris Kobach's mission to disenfranchise eligible Kansas voters has again
been revealed as the unconstitutional crusade it has always been," Kansas
Democratic Party Executive Director Ethan Corson said in an emailed statement.
But the decision drew criticism from Steve Watkins, the Republican candidate
for Kansas' 2nd Congressional District, who called it "the latest example of
unelected judges replacing their wisdom for that of voters."
"There is nothing controversial about requiring United States citizens to
show identification when they register to vote; it protects American citizen's
right to free and fair elections. Instead of mocking or playing politics with
the integrity of our electoral process --- the judiciary should be protecting
it," Watkins said.
Kansas has about 1.8 million registered voters. Kobach has told the court he
has been able to document a total of 127 noncitizens who at least tried to
register to vote. Forty-three of them were successful in registering, he says,
and 11 have voted since 2000. Five of those people registered at motor vehicle
offices, according to Kobach.
In the first three years after the Kansas law went into effect in 2013,
about one in seven voter registration applications in Kansas were blocked for
lack of proof of citizenship --- with nearly half of them under the age of 30,
according to court documents. Between 2013 and 2016, more than 35,000 Kansas
residents were unable to register to vote.
Courts had temporarily blocked Kobach from fully enforcing the Kansas law,
with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver calling it "a mass denial
of a fundamental constitutional right."
In a separate legal challenge, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia also has temporarily blocked the enforcement of the state's
proof-of-citizen requirement for people who register to vote using the federal