Secretary of State Kris Kobach and an attorney challenging a Kansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls are locked in a dispute over which court should hear the lawsuit. Kobach said Tuesday that he sought to have the case moved from state court to federal court because Wichita attorney Jim Lawing has raised federal election law issues on behalf of two retired northeast Kansas residents. In a court filing, Kobach’s lawyer noted that the lawsuit cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case this year. “Most voting cases do end up in federal court,” said Kobach, a conservative Republican who pushed for passage of the photo ID law in 2011. Kobach moved last week to have the case removed from Shawnee County District Court to federal court, and it has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, though no hearings have been set. Lawing, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1998, declined to comment Tuesday about the lawsuit being moved to federal court, but a few hours later, he filed a request to have the case returned to state court.
In an accompanying memo, Lawing said he cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision only because it notes a longstanding legal principle in Kansas and other states that voters are presumed to be U.S. citizens. The memo said Kobach wasn’t entitled to “misconstrue” the contents of the lawsuit to “escape the forum closest to Kansas law.”
Kobach and other supporters of the voter ID law contend it will block election fraud. Critics have denounced the requirement as an attempt to suppress voter turnout among poor, minority and elderly voters.
Lawing represents Arthur Spry and Charles Hamner of Overbrook. Their votes in the November 2012 general election weren’t counted because neither had a government-issued ID card with a photograph.