The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas over the state’s refusal to allow residents to vote in state elections without showing proof of citizenship. Under a new law, Kansas requires new voters to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. A Supreme Court ruling in June, however, requires that states accept federal standards for voter registration: Voters must swear they are U.S. citizens but aren’t required to show a document. As a result, nearly 18,000 voters in Kansas who registered to vote for the first time this year can vote in federal elections but not in state or local contests because they have not submitted documents proving citizenship. The ACLU says that the two-tier system denies some Kansas voters equal protection under the state constitution. “There is now a class of voters who can vote for president but not vote for secretary of State,” said Julie Ebenstein, a staff attorney for the ACLU. The new Kansas law also requires voters to show identification at polling places. That aspect of the law is also being challenged in a separate court case.
Officials “are putting up one roadblock after the next to make it harder for Kansans to vote,” Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, said in a statement. “The people of Kansas deserve better, which means ending these obstructionist, unconstitutional practices once and for all.”
The ACLU suit is something of a mirror image of a lawsuit Kansas and Arizona initiated in August against the federal Election Assistance Commission, seeking to be able to impose the proof of citizenship requirement on voters for all elections.
“The irony here is that the ACLU is suing Kansas to stop something that I, too, am trying to prevent, which is a two-tier system,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said in an interview.
Nearly 30% of voters who have submitted first-time registrations since Jan. 1 are ineligible for state elections, he said. Those voters can become eligible for state elections by submitting their proof of citizenship, including via text, e-mail or fax. As a result, Kobach said, there is no equal-protection violation. “It’s not as if any distinct group of people are being denied anything,” Kobach said. “There’s nothing preventing them from completing their registration by producing proof of citizenship. There is an element of choice there.”
Full Article: ACLU sues Kansas over voter registration requirements.