A judge is standing by his earlier ruling that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has no legal right to bar people from casting ballots in local and state elections because they registered to vote using a federal form that did not require proof of citizenship. In a ruling made public Thursday, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis rejected Kobach’s request that he reconsider an earlier decision. Theis said in January that the right to vote under state law is not tied to the method of registration. Two weeks after that decision, Brian Newby, the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, added a documentary citizenship requirement on the national voter registration form for residents of Kansas, Georgia and Alabama. Newby unilaterally changed the national form without approval from the agency’s commissioners. That change prompted Kobach to ask the judge to reconsider his ruling.
But Theis said in this week’s ruling that if challenging “overreaching governmental conduct” could be circumvented because a law or regulation is later changed, then there could “never be any efficient or practical check on the abuse of power by a governmental official.” He also noted that Newby’s action has been challenged by a coalition of voting rights groups.
The order was signed Tuesday, the same day a federal judge’s order in a separate case went into effect that requires more than 18,000 Kansas residents who registered at motor vehicle offices without citizenship documents to be registered for federal elections. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused last week to block the temporary injunction.
That federal court order is expected to eventually affect 50,000 voters before the November election.