A federal appeals court on Thursday seemed likely to side with voting rights groups seeking to block Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. Judges hearing arguments in the case considered whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form’s proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice. The dispute is part of a slew of challenges this year that civil rights groups have brought against various state voting laws they claim are designed to dampen turnout among minority groups that tend to favor Democrats. Those challengers have already succeeded in stopping voter ID requirements in North Carolina and Texas and restrictions elsewhere. In the citizenship case, a coalition including the League of Women Voters and civil rights groups say the requirement to show proof undermines efforts to register new voters and deprives eligible voters of the right to vote in federal elections.
… At issue is the move by Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to change the federal form shortly after he took the job last November. Newby is a former Kansas election official who had publicly supported the state’s effort to change the federal registration form.
By contrast, people registering to vote in other states need only to swear that they are citizens, but do not have to show birth certificates or other documents as proof. Alabama and Georgia are not currently enforcing their proof-of-citizenship laws.
Opponents say Newby had no authority to take the action on his own. Even the Justice Department has refused to defend Newby’s action and has sided with voting rights groups.