In court after court, judges are being asked to protect the voting rights of thousands of Kansas citizens this year. And in case after case, the courts are coming down on the side of letting those Kansans participate in elections — despite the misguided efforts of Secretary of State Kris Kobach to keep them out of voting booths. Just this week, a U.S. Court of Appeals panel upheld an earlier ruling that Kansas couldn’t prevent citizens from voting because they didn’t provide proof of citizenship when registering. The most compelling reason offered by the court was that Kobach and other supporters of this tactic had provided far too little proof that any fraudulent voting was going on. That legal case comes on top of two others swirling around Kobach, including a potentially chilling one for his political career, which involves a contempt of court accusation.
Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks issued an order that said about 17,500 Kansans have the right to vote in elections “including up through the general election” on Nov. 8. These are people who did not show proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate) when they registered to vote, usually at state motor vehicle offices. That is permitted under federal law, which requires them to swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens.
But Kobach has championed a state law that requires people to show proof of citizenship anytime they register to vote.
Earlier this year, Hendricks issued an injunction protecting the rights of those 17,500 people. The recent order extends that injunction; he still has to make a final ruling. Notably, Hendricks also ordered that Kobach make sure people will know they have the right to vote. The secretary of state is supposed to make sure local election officials across the state send out notices to affected voters.