Kansas’ strict voting laws sometimes act like a poll tax and also disproportionately discourage young voters, a civil rights panel alleges in a draft report that seeks a federal probe into Kansas voting laws. A panel that advises the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is circulating a draft report that would ask that agency to call for a Justice Department review of Kansas’ strict voting rights laws to determine whether the state is in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act and other laws. “Kansas’ proof of citizenship and voter ID requirements under the (Secure and Fair Elections, or) SAFE Act are the strictest in the nation, and may impose a substantially higher burden than that which has been previously challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said in its draft report. “Community groups, local elections officials, and individual citizens all reported struggling to comply with the requirements.”
The draft report came out one day before a Kansas Senate committee hears testimony on a bill that would expand the law even further by giving Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office authority to hold “bifurcated” elections in which some voters would only be allowed to vote in federal elections, but not state or local elections, if they register to vote using a federal form that does not require proof of citizenship.
… The advisory panel conducted hearings in January 2016 and heard testimony about the impact that the SAFE Act has had on voting rights and voter participation in Kansas. Kobach, who championed passage of that law in 2011, testified at those hearings and said he did not think the laws had had any negative impact on voter participation. But others said the law, and in particular the requirement that people show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register, had made it much more difficult for people to vote.