Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s relentless campaign to make it harder to register to vote goes on trial Tuesday in federal court. The nation will be watching the case play out in Kansas City, Kan. If Kobach prevails, many states across the country are likely to erect new barriers to registration, making it harder for the voters’ will to be known in races from the city council to the White House. If Kobach loses — which seems more likely than not — the right to register and vote without major obstruction will have at least some protection, as it should have. At issue is a state law requiring Kansans to provide “documentary proof of citizenship,” such as a birth certificate or adoption decree, when registering to vote at the driver’s license office. Kobach and other allies said producing birth certificates and passports for registration would be easy for eligible citizens but would be hard for non-citizens, keeping them from the ballot box.
And Kansas has a right, they said, to impose whatever additional requirements they want on the federal motor voter law.
Several Kansans sued. They said the motor voter law already requires registrants to sign a document, under the penalty of perjury, confirming that they are citizens. That should be enough.
Tuesday’s trial, before federal judge Julie Robinson, will decide who’s right.