A federal appeals court on Friday handed a significant setback to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s efforts to require all new and re-registering voters to provide a document proving citizenship. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that Kansas cannot require proof-of-citizenship documents — almost always a birth certificate or passport — from prospective voters who register using a federal voter registration form. The court also said that a federal agency doesn’t have to alter the form to fit Kansas requirements. Arizona has a similar proof-of-citzenship requirement, and Kobach argued the case on behalf of both states in conjunction with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. The Kansas requirement is separate from a section of state law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita had ruled that the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency, was required to add state-specific citizenship proof requirements to the instructions for using the federal form in Kansas and Arizona. The appeals court overturned Melgren’s ruling.
“I am very pleased, obviously,” said Dolores Furtado, president of the Kansas chapter of the League of Women Voters. “It’s a good feeling because we’re truly trying to help” people get registered to vote.
The national and state leagues had intervened in the case on the federal agency’s side, along with a host of voting rights groups including Common Cause, Project Vote and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.
Kobach could not be reached for comment late Friday.