Kansas’ fight over showing proof of citizenship in order to register to vote spilled into the state Legislature Tuesday, with Republican leaders denying a vote to ease the process. Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives denied Rep. Jim Ward’s (D-Wichita) amendment to a crime bill that would have allowed residents to sign an affidavit when they register saying they are citizens, a practice allowed nationally. Under current Kansas law, residents have to show proof of citizenship as well as sign an affidavit. The Legislature was in special session this week to vote on legislation changing the state’s mandatory sentences for convicted murderers. Between 15,000 and 16,000 Kansas residents have been placed on a suspended list for failure to produce proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the author of the citizenship law, in an effort to overturn it and add the 16,000 people on the voting rolls. “How can you have just over 15,000 being denied the right to vote?” Ward said to HuffPost. “That kind of disregard over the right to vote is wrong.”
Ward told HuffPost that his voting amendment was germane to the mandatory sentence legislation, since there is a penalty for registering to vote while not being a citizen.
A spokesman for House Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) did not return a call for comment. Ward said that Kansas House leaders have used germaneness before to kill amendments they did not favor. They also have used it to block bills from the floor in order to prevent amendments on related topics.
Kobach told HuffPost that he is against Ward’s proposal, saying that it will not solve the problem of non-citizens registering to vote in Kansas. He said a signature on a affidavit does not prove citizenship, and that a search of motor vehicle records in Kansas showed more than a dozen non-citizens registered to vote.