An odd repercussion has arisen over Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement for residents who register to vote. So odd that the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has asked a state court to put an end to the two-tiered voter registration system that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has created, a system that critics call the law’s “unintended consequence” or, less kindly, “collateral damage.” Kansas now requires residents to produce citizenship documents, typically a birth certificate or passport, to register to vote. That law, championed by Kobach, took effect in 2013. But citizens have long been allowed to use a federal form to register. That form requires registrants to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens. No documents needed. So what to do about Kansas residents who complete the federal form, which courts have said must be accepted by states?
This is the fallout critics are decrying: They are allowed to vote, but Kobach decided their ballots will be treated specially. Only votes in federal races are counted. If they cast votes in state and local races, those votes are not counted.
“It’s a great example of the law of unintended consequences,” said Mark Johnson, a Kansas City lawyer who teaches election law at the University of Kansas School of Law. “So now we have people who can vote for Congress and the president, but not for governor, for the statehouse, in other elections we have every year,” Johnson said.
The ACLU filed a motion this month calling Kobach’s “dual system” illegal. The motion said that Kobach, the state’s top election official, didn’t have legislative authority to put it in place and that it unconstitutionally grants differing voter rights.