Secretary of State Kris Kobach conceded Thursday that Kansas won’t require first-time voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year’s elections because the Senate’s top leader effectively killed the proposal. Kobach, who pushed the proposal, declared it dead after Senate President Steve Morris assigned the legislation to a hostile committee. The House passed the bill Wednesday, and Kobach had hoped Morris would bypass a committee review, making an up-or-down vote possible in the Senate to determine whether the bill went to Gov. Sam Brownback.
Kansas has a proof-of-citizenship rule for people registering to vote for the first time, but it doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2013. Kobach wanted the rule in place June 15, which he said would be in time for the normal surge of registrations before a presidential election. Critics of the rule believe it will suppress voter turnout, particularly among poor, minority and elderly voters and college students.
Kobach, a conservative Republican, disputes those claims and contends that the rule will prevent illegal immigrants and other non-citizens from registering to vote. He said there’s little sense in delaying the proof-of-citizenship requirement until after the busiest registration period every four years. “It’s outrageous,” Kobach told The Associated Press. “Because of his action today, it is very likely that dozens of aliens –illegal or not illegal – will get on the Kansas voter rolls.”