A judge said Tuesday that Kansas can’t require people to show proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote for federal elections at motor vehicle offices. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirements likely violate a provision in the National Voter Registration Act that requires only “minimal information” to determine a voter’s eligibility. She ordered Kansas to register thousands of voters whose paperwork is on hold because they did not comply with the requirement. But she put her preliminary injunction on hold until May 31 to give the state a chance to appeal. The state immediately said it would appeal. Unless a higher court halts Robinson’s order before the end of the month, it would take effect then, clearing the way for those residents to cast a ballot in the upcoming federal elections.
Robinson wrote that “even if instances of noncitizens voting cause indirect voter disenfranchisement by diluting the votes of citizens, such instances pale in comparison to the number of qualified citizens who have been disenfranchised by this law.”
The evidence shows only three instances in Kansas where noncitizens voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013, and about 14 noncitizens attempted to register during that time. The court noted the “magnitude of harm” caused by 18,372 applicants at motor vehicle offices who were denied registration due to the state’s proof-of-citizenship law.
Although the registrations of more than 32,000 Kansans were in limbo as of last September, the injunction only applies to those people who registered at motor vehicle offices – a voter registration process that was established by the federal law popularly known as the “motor-voter law.”