A Shawnee County judge has ruled that 17,500 voters can have their votes counted in state and local races as well as federal ones in Tuesday’s Kansas primary election. “Losing one’s vote is an irreparable harm in my opinion,” Judge Larry Hendricks said in his bench ruling Friday. A state board approved a rule earlier this month to allow people to vote only in federal elections – not state and local ones – if they registered at DMV offices but failed to provide proof of citizenship as required by Kansas law. The rule, crafted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was meant to put the state in compliance with a recent ruling by a federal judge to let these voters vote under the federal “motor-voter” law. Kobach contended that the federal ruling applied only to federal elections and that the state’s proof of citizenship requirement still barred these voters from casting votes in state and local races. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the rule under the equal protection clause in the Kansas Constitution. “You’re either registered or you’re not,” ACLU attorney Sophia Lakin told the judge. “There’s no such thing as half registration.”
Hendricks said Friday that Kobach lacks the authority to create a dual voting system. He issued a temporary order blocking the rule, ensuring that all of these voters’ votes will be counted.
Hendricks said the state does have an interest in preventing non-citizens from voting, but that those interests “do not outweigh the rights” of the “overwhelming number of U.S. citizens that will lose the constitutional right to vote” under Kobach’s rule.