Election rules in Kansas and Arizona are set to bar thousands of people in coming weeks from casting ballots in state primaries even as the federal government allows some of them to vote in congressional races. The split system is the result of a growing battle between federal officials and a handful of states over the necessity of verifying that a newly registered voter is a U.S. citizen. Kansas and Arizona say the federal registration process doesn’t rigorously check citizenship. They have established their own verification systems and are barring people who register using the federal system from voting this month for such offices as governor and local posts. In recent years, mostly Republican-controlled states have tightened voting rules, including requiring voters to produce picture identification at the polls, arguing it prevents fraud. “There is a very real problem with aliens being registered to vote,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said about a dozen states are likely to pass such measures in coming years. Democrats have countered that there are few examples of fraud at the polls and that such steps suppress the vote of such groups as minorities and women.
Several states are closely watching a pending federal court case that has produced the unusual balloting in Kansas and Arizona. Georgia and Alabama are looking to implement proof-of-citizenship laws that have already passed, while lawmakers in states such as South Carolina and Oklahoma have considered adding such rules.
“If Arizona and Kansas succeed, I have no doubt that this will continue to be an agenda item, and it will be an ongoing battle in many states,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, who represents the League of Women Voters in opposition to the Arizona and Kansas laws.