The American Civil Liberties Union and Secretary of State Kris Kobach jockeyed for legal advantage Friday in a court case challenging Kobach’s implementation of the state’s voter proof-of-citizenship law. Representing Kansas voters who can cast ballots in federal races, but not state and local elections, the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment that would strike down Kobach’s two-tier voting system without a trial. Nearly simultaneously, Kobach filed a motion that would allow him to immediately appeal a judge’s ruling that he overstepped his authority by dividing voters into two voting camps, those who registered using a state form and those who registered using a federal form. The case is important because it could let people work around a state law – authored by Kobach – that requires prospective registrants to show documents proving their citizenship before they are granted voting privileges. The proof-of-citizenship requirement is separate from the requirement that voters have to show photo ID when they cast a ballot. While a driver’s license is sufficient for Election Day voter ID, the state’s voter-registration form requires a higher level of documentation. That can usually be met only with a birth certificate, passport, or special papers issued to foreign-born and tribal citizens.
The federal registration form accepts a sworn statement from the voter, signed under penalty of perjury, as proof of citizenship. At Kobach’s direction, only voters who can document proof of citizenship are allowed to vote in all federal, state and local elections. Voters who register with the federal form without providing their citizenship papers are only allowed to vote in federal races for president and members of Congress.
The federal appeals court in Denver ruled last year that the state has to accept and use the federal form to register voters in federal elections, and the state can’t force a federal agency to incorporate Kansas rules into its form. The Supreme Court declined to hear Kobach’s appeal of that ruling.