A civil rights advisory panel is urging a more thorough review of a Kansas voting law after finding evidence that the law may be disenfranchising voters of color. Kansas passed a law in 2011 that set up requirements that voters must show a photo ID at the polls and must provide proof of citizenship when they register. The policies were adopted at the urging of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a way to prevent voter fraud. But a draft report from the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights details concerns that the law “may have been written and implemented with improper, discriminatory intent.” The report was obtained by The Star. … The report urges the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate whether the Kansas law, which it notes is the strictest in the nation, has violated the federal Voting Rights Act and other voting laws in its implementation.
Under the Kansas law, which is known as the Safe and Fair Elections Act, prospective voters who fail to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, are placed on a list of suspended voters and blocked from voting.
The report from the advisory committee cites an analysis by Emporia State University professor Michael Smith showing a correlation between census tracts with a high number of African-Americans and areas with a disproportionate number of voters on the suspended voters list. “It does look like lower-income precincts with a large African-American population are affected more than others,” Smith said in a phone call Monday. “It doesn’t seem to be race-neutral in its effect.”
The report notes that eligible voters “may be required to pay for their documents” and that this “may effectively be compared to a poll tax,” a fee for voting that was used to disenfranchise African-Americans in the Jim Crow-era South, a practice that was abolished under the 24th Amendment.