Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has told a federal court that he is changing interagency policies to improve the state’s ability to verify proof of citizenship for people who register to vote at motor vehicle offices. The notice, filed shortly before midnight Wednesday, comes a day after a federal court ruled thousands of Kansas residents who did not provide such documents must be added to voter rolls for federal elections. The judge stayed her ruling until May 31 so the state could appeal, which Kobach has said he plans to do. In his court filing, Kobach contends that the new policies were being implemented prior to Tuesday’s ruling. One policy says motor vehicle offices accept and scan documents proving U.S. citizenship. Another change gives the secretary of state’s office and election officials in all 105 counties Internet access to check whether motor vehicle offices possess such documents.
Some who sued the state over its proof-of-citizenship requirements had provided the required birth certificate or passport at the motor vehicle offices, and others were not advised they lacked the necessary documentation or were incorrectly assured when they got their driver’s licenses that they had successfully registered to vote.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said it is clear from the evidence that coordination is “lacking” between the Secretary of State’s office and the state’s Department of Revenue, which operates the motor vehicle offices.
While Kobach has publicly cited human errors made by motor vehicle office employees in registering noncitizens to vote as one of the reasons proof-of-citizenship is needed, there is no evidence that better training was attempted under the old law and it appears little has been done to train employees on the new law, the judge noted.