Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department will soon face one another in a Denver appeals court, arguing a landmark federal case over proof of citizenship and voting rights. While the case will directly affect only a couple of hundred Kansas voters – those who registered using a federal form instead of the far more common state form – it has broad national implications and has attracted input from interests ranging from the state of Alabama to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It’s already affected Wichita in a major way. If federally registered voters weren’t disqualified from state and local elections as they are now, Wichitans would probably be voting this November on an initiative to decriminalize marijuana.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments Aug. 25 in the case, pitting Kansas and Arizona against the federal Election Assistance Commission, a panel empowered by Congress to develop and oversee the federal registration form. The issue at hand is whether the two states can force the federal agency to comply with state laws requiring documents proving citizenship to register to vote.
The states’ forms require that proof, almost always in the form of a birth certificate or passport.
The federal registration form doesn’t require paper proof of citizenship, but it does require registrants to sign a sworn statement of citizenship under penalty of perjury.