Kansas wants to resurrect voting law requiring proof-of-citizenship; case being watched nationwide

The constitutionality of a blocked Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship in order to be able to vote is under scrutiny as the state looks to bring it back.

Arguments were set to be heard in a federal appeals court on Monday in a case that draws attention again to the efforts of Republicans to enact voter ID laws in an attempt to stem in-person voter fraud, according to an Associated Press report on Monday.

(Image: Wikimedia)

 

The Kansas voter registration law required documents such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization papers to be presented before people would be allowed to even register to vote, taking another step further than 35 other states which already have some form of voter identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Associated Press reported:

In a case with national implications for voting rights, Kansas faces an uphill battle to resurrect the law once championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach , who led President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission.

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked Kobach in 2016 from fully enforcing the law, calling it “a mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.” The issue is back before the appellate court after U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson struck it down last year and made permanent the earlier injunction.

 

Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, called out the statute which was aimed at confronting a “nonexistent epidemic of noncitizen voting.”

“Kansas was the tip of the spear of an effort to make it harder for people to register under the guise of protecting elections from a nonexistent epidemic of noncitizen voting. Those efforts haven’t stopped as this case illustrates, and I think this case will be closely watched,” Ho said.

More than 30,732 people who could not submit proof of citizenship were unable to register to vote between 2013 and 2016 when the law was in effect before being blocked by Robinson. The judge found that the law “disproportionately impacted duly qualified registration applicants, while only nominally preventing noncitizen voter registration.”

“Kansas argued in court filings that it has a compelling interest in preventing voter fraud. It contended its proof-of-citizenship requirement is not a significant burden and protects the integrity of elections and the accuracy of voter rolls,” The AP report said.

Kobach, a conservative Republican who backed Trump’s assertion of voter fraud, was the architect behind the strict Kansas voter identification laws. The Democratic governor of the state, Laura Kelly, is opposed to the legislation but once supported it when she was a state senator.

“The Legislature is free to repeal the statute if it is no longer favored, but as long as the law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote remains on the books, we think it, like other duly enacted state laws, deserves a full and vigorous legal defense,” Kansas’ Republican attorney general, Derek Schmidt, said.

Schmidt, who is defending the legislation as it is being appealed, noted that it had passed in the Legislature by large bipartisan majorities.

While critics are arguing that cases of voter fraud are actually rare and that Republicans are seeking to suppress voter turnout from those in demographics which usually support Democrats, Kansas has seen many convictions for voter fraud since 2015.

But attempts to enforce voting requirements have typically been denounced by the left and the latest move by the state of Kansas to resurrect its proof-of-citizenship requirements had critics crying oppression.

But the left’s arguments were countered by many on Twitter who had no problem with the identification requirements.

Frieda Powers

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