People in Kansas can still register to vote in federal elections without showing proof of citizenship, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. But whether those people will be allowed to vote in state and local elections remains an open question. The court on Monday refused to hear Kansas Secretary of State Kobach’s appeal in a case in which he asked that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission provide a federal voter registration form that comports with state law, which requires voters to show proof of citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kobach, saying the EAC did not have to provide a revised federal form for use in Kansas. The Supreme Court’s decision Monday not to hear Kobach’s appeal means the 10th Circuit’s ruling will stand.
Kobach said Monday he wasn’t surprised by the ruling because the Supreme Court often waits until there is a split between different appellate courts before taking a case, and so far the 10th Circuit is the only appellate court that has ruled on the question of amending the federal registration form.
Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit is pending in state court that challenges Kobach’s policy of not allowing people who registered using the federal form to vote in state and local races. That case, which is pending before Shawnee County District Judge Frank Theis, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters.
“Now that the Supreme Court has said the federal form doesn’t have to be changed, the question is teed up for him to answer,” said Mark Johnson, a lecturer on election law at Kansas University who also serves on the board of the ACLU of Kansas. “On the constitutional argument, there is the possibility that we could have a bifurcated election system.”