On January 1, 2013 a new law went into effect in Kansas. The law requires new voters to prove their U.S. citizenship in order to register. As a result of the new regulations, more than 17 thousand Kansans, including more than 3,900 potential voters in Sedgwick County, remain in “suspended” status for failing to provide a birth certificate or other qualifying document when registering. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach authored the Secure and Fair Elections Act. Kobach says most people don’t carry birth certificates around, the law was written in a very permissive way. It allows applicants to take their time to complete their registration. … Doug Bonney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the proof of citizenship document is unnecessary and that the problem does not really exist. “There just isn’t that type of fraud,” Bonney said. “People do not show up at the election authorities and try to register to vote when they’re not citizens, so there’s no need for this.”
There’s a tug-of-war between the Kansas law and federal voting regulations. The federal form requires a sworn statement of citizenship but not a birth certificate for registration. Secretary Kobach, as well as the State of Arizona, is suing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in order to force a change in the federal form so it complies with registration laws of the two states. This will close the loophole which allows people to “bypass” state laws by using the federal form.
Louis Goseland, coordinator of KanVote, a statewide campaign whose mission is to defend voter rights, says that Kobach’s law has effectively created a two-tier voting registration system.
“Kobach is saying that the states have the right to impose their restrictions on their own elections,” Goseland said. “(And that) the federal government has the authority to govern federal elections. So if you filled out a form provided by Congress, you can vote in federal elections, but you can’t vote in state regulations until you provide your proof of citizenship.”