Kansas cannot prevent thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots in the November federal election because they didn’t prove they were U.S. citizens when registering to vote at motor vehicle offices, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling temporarily upholds a court order that required Kansas to allow those individuals to vote in federal elections even though they didn’t provide citizenship documentation when applying or renewing their driver’s licenses, as required under Kansas law. The state has said as many as 50,000 people could be affected. The appeals court judges said Kansas had not made the necessary showing for a stay pending appeal, but agreed to hear the appeal quickly.
The initial court order was made last month by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who said enforcement of Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law has disenfranchised more than 18,000 otherwise eligible voters. That amounts to about 8 percent of all voter registration applications, “not an insignificant amount,” she wrote in her ruling. Robinson ordered the state to comply with her ruling by Tuesday.
The decision means that Robinson’s preliminary injunction will go into effect, and that means “tens of thousands of citizens who have had their voting rights denied would be put on the voter rolls,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. “In any other state they would be on the voter rolls.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach did not immediately return messages left on his cellphone and in emails seeking comment on the ruling.