A federal judge’s order backing Arizona and Kansas laws that require proof of citizenship for voter registration is “not the American way” and must be challenged, opponents said Thursday. The comments came after a U.S. District judge in Kansas ordered the Election Assistance Commission to include the two states’ proof-of-citizenship requirement on federal voter registration forms, which only require that people check a box verifying their U.S. citizenship. “We will appeal it,” said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. He said no official decision has been made, but he expects voting-rights advocates will file an appeal “within 30 to 60 days.” But state officials in Kansas and Arizona said they are confident the latest decision will stand – and that they do not intend to wait for appeals. “They have a right to appeal, but the decision was made effective immediately,” Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Thursday. It is the latest twist in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled last summer that Arizona officials could not reject federal voter registration forms because they did not require proof of citizenship.
But the high court did not reject the state law, Proposition 200, that called for citizenship proof on the state’s registration form. And the court said states could ask the federal government to include Arizona’s – and now Kansas’ – proof-of-citizenship requirement on the federal form.
When the EAC in January refused the states’ request, Arizona and Kansas sued.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sided with the states Wednesday, saying federal law did not pre-empt the tougher state standards and that the EAC unlawfully refused to include the state requirements on its forms. He ordered the commission to “add the language requested by Arizona and Kansas” immediately.
Wercinski called that decision a “direct contradiction” to the Supreme Court ruling. Other advocates said it would disenfranchise minority groups by making them jump through more hoops to vote.
“In most democracies, it’s a responsibility of citizenship to vote,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way. “It seems like we keep putting people through hoop after hoop after hoop.”