On Tuesday, a state board adopted a regulation proposed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office allowing thousands of Kansas voters whose registrations were suspended to vote in federal elections but not in state and local races. By presenting it as a temporary rather than permanent regulation, the office was able to submit it to the State Rules and Regulations Board, which exists only to approve temporary regulations. Such regulations don’t have to go through the typically elaborate process for permanent regulations, which require a 60-day public comment period before being adopted. Here’s an explanation of what happened Tuesday, what the State Rules and Regulations Board is, and how Kobach’s proposal came to be adopted with virtually no advance notice and no public input.
In 2011, Gov. Sam Brownback signed the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act (SAFE) into law. Among other things, the law, which was championed by Kobach as an anti-election-fraud measure, requires voter registration applicants to submit documentary proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they apply to register to vote. The proof-of-citizenship requirement became effective on Jan. 1, 2013.
One problem with SAFE is that the National Voter Registration Act, which Congress passed in 1993 and is commonly known as the “motor voter” law, requires states to accept uniform federal voter registration forms. Those forms do not require documentary proof of citizenship. They merely require registrants to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens.