To get out of voter registration “purgatory” in Kansas, it helps to sue. That’s what two young men and their attorneys found when they took Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) to court over a state law that requires residents to present proof of citizenship documents in order to vote in state and federal elections. If a Kansan registers to vote but does not provide one of 13 valid proof-of-citizenship documents, such as a birth certificate or passport, he or she is placed on a so-called “suspense” list. Just three other states in the country have such a requirement on the books, and Kansas and Arizona are the only states enforcing it. About 36,000 Kansans were in this state of “voter purgatory” as of early October. For comparison, the state has 1.7 million registered voters.
Kansas: Lawyers in voter registration lawsuit against Kobach ask for class-action status | The Wichita Eagle
A court challenge by two Douglas County residents against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could become a class-action suit that represents many of the 36,000 people slated to have their incomplete voter registrations canceled. Lawyers for Cody Keener and Alder Cromwell filed an amendment Tuesday to make the change. Kobach has asked the federal court to dismiss the case because Keener and Cromwell are now registered to vote. His office registered them by obtaining proof-of-citizenship documents on their behalf, which is allowed by the registration statute. Will Lawrence, attorney for Cromwell and Keener, said their case remains valid despite Kobach’s subsequent action to register them. “But we also realize this case involves tens of thousands of Kansans who have ended up on the suspended voter list and are ultimately to be denied the right to vote,” Lawrence said. Craig McCullah, Kobach’s spokesman, said Thursday the office was reviewing the class-action request and had no comment yet.
A federal judge on Friday refused a request from state lawmakers to dismiss a challenge to the N.C. voter ID law. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder set the issue for a trial, tentatively in January. Attorneys for state lawmakers argued that a 2015 change to the ID provision of an election law overhaul made the 2013 legal challenge moot. Though the law initially restricted voting to people who had one of six specified photo identification cards, the General Assembly added a provision on the eve of the federal trial this summer that made it possible to cast a provisional ballot without an ID. The law is set to go into effect next year. Advocates of the ID law say it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. But few cases have been prosecuted.
Of the 239 million American people who are of voting age, a little more than half—only about 142 million—were registered to vote in 2014. For people in the state of Kansas, their voter registration process is a bit more difficult in the lead up to this election season, thanks in part to the Secure and Fair Elections Act, also known as the SAFE Act. The law, sponsored by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requires potential voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering. In all states, voting in federal elections is limited to U.S. citizens, but requirements for voting vary state by state. In the least restrictive states, like New Jersey, for instance, a signature verification is the only requirement for registration. Other states are stricter—Texas requires a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license.
Amelia Flores, a high school senior with plans to become an electrical engineer, eagerly filled out a form to register to vote for the first time at the Kansas State Fair last month. But she left the fair without registering, stymied by a state law championed by Republicans who dominate elected offices in Kansas that requires her to provide proof of citizenship. “I think it’s ridiculous and restrictive,” said Ms. Flores, who later received a notice in the mail informing her that she must produce a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to complete the registration. “A lot of people are working multiple jobs, so they don’t have time to get this stuff done. Some of them don’t have access to their birth certificate.” Ms. Flores, who said she was born in Washington State, unwittingly joined a list of more than 36,000 people in Kansas who have tried to register to vote since the law went into effect in 2013, but then did not complete their registration. This month, under a rule adopted by the Kansas secretary of state’s office, county election officials throughout the state began to cull names from the voters list, removing people who had been on it at least 90 days. Those removed from the list must start the registration process over in order to vote.
In Kansas, you have to show proof that you are a U.S. citizen to register to vote, and that requirement has held up tens of thousands of registrations and produced an enormous list of would-be voters who are essentially in limbo — all because they haven’t shown a birth certificate or passport. Now Kansas’ top elections official in Kansas wants that list purged, and that’s leading to a fight. Like a lot of people, Cody Keener registered to vote for the first time at the Division of Motor Vehicles. Keener is 21 and comes from a long line of Kansans. So he figured he was set to both drive and vote, but he was wrong. He recently learned that his registration is incomplete because he hasn’t shown proof that he’s a U.S. citizen. “It’s very discouraging to young people,” says Keener. “I’m a full-time student, I work anywhere from 20 to 30 hours a week.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Secretary of State Kris Kobach jockeyed for legal advantage Friday in a court case challenging Kobach’s implementation of the state’s voter proof-of-citizenship law. Representing Kansas voters who can cast ballots in federal races, but not state and local elections, the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment that would strike down Kobach’s two-tier voting system without a trial. Nearly simultaneously, Kobach filed a motion that would allow him to immediately appeal a judge’s ruling that he overstepped his authority by dividing voters into two voting camps, those who registered using a state form and those who registered using a federal form. The case is important because it could let people work around a state law – authored by Kobach – that requires prospective registrants to show documents proving their citizenship before they are granted voting privileges. The proof-of-citizenship requirement is separate from the requirement that voters have to show photo ID when they cast a ballot. While a driver’s license is sufficient for Election Day voter ID, the state’s voter-registration form requires a higher level of documentation. That can usually be met only with a birth certificate, passport, or special papers issued to foreign-born and tribal citizens.
Opponents of a proposed regulation that would allow Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to purge the names of more than 34,000 prospective voters will protest at a public hearing next month, but concede there is little else they can do. The architect behind some of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements, Kobach is pushing an administrative rule that would allow him to throw out any incomplete voter registration forms after 90 days, most of which lack proof-of-citizenship documentation such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers. Purging the suspension list, which had 34,454 names as of Wednesday, would leave just 4,202 names. … A hearing is set for Sept. 2 over the purge, but Kobach and his opponents agree that, as secretary of state, he has the power to unilaterally change the rules. “These are just formalities he has to go through before he can do it,” said state Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat.
Kansas residents can register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship under the June 29 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but they won’t be allowed to vote in state and local elections, the state’s top election official said. The high court’s justices rejected an appeal from Republican officials in Kansas and Arizona who have sought force federal elections officials to change a national voter registration form so that it requires new voters in their states to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the two states can not demand that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission help them enforce their laws. Most new Kansas voters use a state voter registration form requiring such documents. The federal form requires only that voters sign a sworn statement saying they are citizens.
Nearly two weeks before a federal trial is set to begin on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s voter ID rule and other election law changes made in 2013, the General Assembly has changed the rules. The N.C. Senate voted 44-2 Thursday to soften voter ID requirements set to go into effect next year, approving legislation that allows voters without photo IDs to cast provisional ballots. The House also approved the bill a few hours later in a 104-3 vote, sending it to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. The bill, similar to a South Carolina law that was allowed to take effect in 2013, sets up a process for voters to use a “reasonable impediment declaration” outlining why they couldn’t provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters could claim one of eight reasons, including a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, or a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID.
A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a decision allowing residents of Kansas and Arizona to register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued a one-sentence ruling denying a request from the two states. The appeals court ruled in November that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand help from federal officials in enforcing state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship.
Alabama: One of last vestiges of gutted immigration law, Alabama pushes voters for citizenship proof | AL.com
One of Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett’s last acts will be to try to implement one of the last provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law that has not already been resolved – a requirement that voters show proof of citizenship to register. Under that provision of the 2011 law, known as HB 56, people must show a driver’s license or some other valid form of identification in order to register to vote. But the state never implemented it while lawyers fought over the legality of the law’s broader measures, which sought to crack down on illegal immigration. The federal courts invalidated most of that law, and the state last year reached a permanent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, agreeing to permanently black enforcement of seven provisions. Bennett announced last week, though, that the state will press ahead with the citizenship requirement now that the U.S. Senate has confirmed nominees to fill long-vacant seats on the Election Assistance Commission. That is the organization that must agree to change the federal voter registration form to comply with the state requirements.
Kansas: More than 21,000 voter registrations in suspense because of proof of citizenship | The Wichita Eagle
De Anna Allen has served on a jury. She has served her country. So she was surprised when she couldn’t vote. Allen went to cast a ballot in the primary election in August and poll workers couldn’t find her name among the list of registered voters. She did cast a ballot, but it was provisional and did not count. Allen was among 27,131 people statewide who had signed up to vote but whose registrations were considered in suspense, or limbo, as of Oct. 14, the last day to register before the midterm election. Most of them – 23,026, including Allen – had not yet provided proof of citizenship. By Friday, the state had whittled that number to 21,473. The numbers of Kansans with incomplete registration because of citizenship are highest among the young and unaffiliated, an Eagle analysis found. Statewide, 12,327 people who identified as unaffiliated had their registrations suspended because of lack of proof of citizenship, compared with 4,787 who identified as Republicans, 3,948 who identified as Democrats and 361 who identified as Libertarians. Not all who applied identified a party, records requested by The Wichita Eagle from the state show. The number of men and women with suspended registrations was split pretty evenly. “It just caught me off guard that I was not registered,” Allen said. “I served for a week on a jury trial, which basically told me I was a registered voter. I’m a disabled veteran, so it’s particularly frustrating. Why should I have to prove my citizenship when I served in the military?”
Editorials: This is what it’s like to try to get a Voter ID when you’re disabled, poor or don’t drive | The Washington Post
What’s the big deal about getting an ID? You need one, after all, to participate in society in all kinds of other ways — to drive, to get married, to buy beer. Surely the requirement to show an ID on Election Day can’t be that burdensome. This is a common defense of Voter ID laws like the kind now on the books in Texas, ostensibly meant to curb voter fraud. But it glosses over the reality of life for some voters, who may struggle to get around because of disabilities, who may lack the seemingly small sums necessary to pay for documentation, who may not have the flexible scheduling to visit a government office twice, or three times, or more. Small obstacles like these are magnified in the frantic days leading up to the election — and add to this the confusion that ensues when people who have voted for years are suddenly told at their familiar polling places they don’t have what they need this time.
November will mark the first general election in which Arizonans use a dual track voting system. The new method prevents Arizona from imposing citizenship requirements on voters using the federal form. But it does allow the state to mandate proof of citizenship for local elections. It comes from a voter approved initiative to crack down on fraudulent voting. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports, the new system is proving difficult for some first time voters. Jason Kordosky is the campus vote organizer for the Arizona Students Association, today he’s at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff registering first time voters. “I think this is one of the most important elections so all these sort of state elections will have a huge impact on our educational system”, Kordosky said.
For some voters, it costs $58.50 to vote in an election. That’s more than enough to keep voters away from polls, according to a new report. Thirty-three states require all eligible voters to show ID at the polling station and, in doing so, add a hidden cost to voting: While casting a ballot is technically free, getting proper identification is not. Many voter-ID laws came about after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, which was intended to address concerns of voter fraud and irregularity in the 2000 presidential election. While concerns about fraud are widespread, research shows that it occurs very rarely. The cost of obtaining an ID affects voter participation, and can disproportionately drive down turnout among African-American voters and 18-to-23-year-olds.
Whether to allow Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law for this fall’s election is up to the Supreme Court – a decision that could come any day. But on Monday, an appeals court gave the law’s backers a big lift. A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit issued a ruling upholding the law. It was the same panel of all-Republican appointees that last month removed a district court judge’s injunction on the law, leading voting rights groups to ask the Supreme Court to intervene. The 23-page ruling, written by Judge Frank Easterbrook, finds that the law is constitutional and does not violate the Voting Rights Act’s (VRA) ban on racial discrimination. The opinion is striking for its blithe tone in upholding a law that could disenfranchise many thousands. One prominent election law scholar called it “horrendous.” Still, the ruling could give the Supreme Court an additional reason to keep the ID measure in place. Courts tend to be less willing to overturn a full ruling on the merits than a more quickly issued order, which is all that the appeals panel had previously offered. And since Wisconsin has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to make its case to the Supreme Court, the ruling could also give state lawyers some helpful tips for making its case.
Three state agencies charged with implementing voter ID for the Nov. 4 election say they have no additional money set aside to help voters and state workers comply with the newly reinstated requirement. But municipal clerks in Wisconsin’s two largest cities say they will spend thousands of dollars and hire hundreds of poll workers in the next few weeks to ensure that voters have the proper government-issued photo identification when casting their ballots. Spokesmen for the three state agencies — the Government Accountability Board, the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Health Services — all say they are using existing staff and resources to handle the demand. In addition, the accountability board says it has no money for a public information or outreach campaign to ensure voters are aware of the requirement. GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has asked the agency to develop a budget request by Sept. 30, which it will consider at its quarterly meeting sometime after that.
Two days before appearing in front of a panel of federal appeals judges over the state’s halted voter identification law, Wisconsin officials on Wednesday announced a new process for giving free photo IDs to people who don’t have birth certificates. The system was set up in response to a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in July that said the state could not require people to produce documents that require government fees for the purpose of voting. The new plan for issuing IDs is to debut Monday, but under it those who do not have birth certificates or other key documents will not receive IDs right away. That could mean people who try to get IDs just before an election wouldn’t get them quickly enough to allow them to vote — a provision that could open a new line of litigation. Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature in 2011 approved the law requiring people to show photo ID to vote. Four lawsuits immediately followed, two in state court and two in federal court. The law was in effect for a February 2012 primary, but was then blocked by a series of court orders. The state Supreme Court in July upheld the voter ID law in the two state cases, one decided 5-2 and one 4-3.
Sammie Louise Bates moved to Texas from Illinois in 2011. She wanted to vote last year, but all she had was an Illinois identification card, and under Texas’s strict voter ID law, that wasn’t acceptable. To get a Texas ID, Bates needed a birth certificate from her native Mississippi, which cost $42. That was money that Bates, whose income is around $321 a month, didn’t have. “I had to put $42 where it would do the most good,” Bates, who is African-American, testified Tuesday, the first day of the trial over Texas’s ID law. “We couldn’t eat the birth certificate.” Another witness, Calvin Carrier, described the difficulties his father, a Korean War veteran, had in obtaining an acceptable ID, thanks to errors on his birth certificate. Myrna Perez, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice, whose lawyers are among those arguing the case for the plaintiffs, said those witnesses were there to show that “there are real people out there who don’t have the ID that’s needed. When you are limited income, it can be very challenging to scrape up the money that you need for the underlying ID, and it requires a tremendous amount of hoops to go through.”
Dozens of lawyers will gather in a federal courtroom in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday for the start of a new challenge to the state’s controversial voter ID law. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks, but it’s unlikely to be the end of what’s already been a long, convoluted journey for the Texas law — and many others like it. First, some background: Texas’ Republican-controlled Legislature passed new photo ID requirements for voters back in 2011. Supporters said the law was needed to prevent voter fraud, although opponents noted that there was little evidence of such fraud at the polls. At the time, the state was covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which meant it needed federal approval for the law to go into effect, because the state had a history of discrimination against minority voters. The case ended up before a three-judge federal court in Washington, D.C., which in 2012 ruled against the state. It said Texas could not impose the new ID requirement, because the state was unable to show that it would not discriminate against blacks and Latinos. Under Section 5, the burden of proof was on the state to show that the law was nondiscriminatory.
She’s voted in every election for nearly 70 years, until this year. “As far as I knew I needed to re-register and I needed a Kansas driver’s license,” said Elizabeth Gray of Winfield. “That’s what I thought.” Gray says confusion over the state’s Voter ID Law and problems with the DMV not accepting her paperwork kept her at home during the August primaries. From those who simply don’t have a birth certificate because they were born before it was common to issue one to others who misunderstand what kind of identification they need to vote, some say there’s still confusion about Kansas’s Voter ID Law. “I’ve always voted,” said Gray. She’s lived all over the country but says she’s never had this much trouble making her voice heard at the polls. “And it really upset me,” she laughed. “I believe it’s our duty to vote. We can’t, we don’t have any right to complain if we don’t vote.”
Evelyn Howard, 92, has voted in 18 presidential elections. But her vote in the 2014 November elections was in jeopardy because of Kansas’ voter registration law. A family Bible saved the day. The Kansas Election Board has approved the voter registration for Evelyn Howard of Shawnee. This came after Howard and her daughter presented copies of U.S. Census records and a page from a battered family Bible to prove she was born in the U.S. Howard had to do all of that because she didn’t have a birth certificate. Daughter Marilyn Hopkins said she was born in a midwife’s home in Minnesota in February 1922. Starting in 2013, Kansas requires new voters to provide a birth certificate or other proof of their citizenship when registering. Howard moved to Kansas from Missouri in 2013 and sought to register as a Republican voter earlier this month.
Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen are asking a federal court to reinstate Wisconsin’s voter ID law, but they have not finalized a plan to comply with a different court’s decision requiring the state to provide IDs to people who don’t have birth certificates. The state Supreme Court last month upheld the voter ID law, but the requirement to show photo ID at the polls remains blocked because a federal judge has found it violates the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution. A new court filing suggests the voter ID law is unlikely to be put in place for the Nov. 4 election, when the GOP governor faces Democrat Mary Burke. She opposes the voter ID law. State officials say they need to know soon whether the law will be in effect so they can retrain poll workers and send out absentee ballots with the proper information. But the federal appeals court has said it won’t rule on reinstating the voter ID law until at least Sept. 12 — around the time absentee ballots will be mailed out. “I just can’t imagine that this could be implemented by the November election without creating a huge mess,” said Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. “I think it would be imprudent to put it mildly to try to implement this law pursuant to an order issued after Sept. 12. I think that’s just asking for trouble.”
One day before Arizona’s primary election, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard arguments Monday on the constitutionality of voters having to prove citizenship through a passport or birth certificate before they can register to vote. Arizona and Kansas have both passed laws requiring voters to prove citizenship before they can register. That is stricter than federal law, which requires a voter simply to affirm U.S. citizenship in writing. On Tuesday, Arizona voters who have not proved their citizenship to the state’s satisfaction will be able to cast ballots only for U.S. Congress — not for governor or any other state offices. Kansas held such a two-tier primary earlier this month. “The Founding Fathers didn’t want that,” said Kansas Atty. Gen. Kris Kobach, who argued the case for both states. “They are using the federal form as a lever to displace the state’s power,” he said in an interview after the hearing. Supporters contend such laws prevent voter fraud. Opponents maintain that the real motivation is to make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote.
National: U.S. Court to Hear Case on Voting Restrictions as Arizona Prepares for Polls | New York Times
A decades-old effort by Congress to make voter registration simple and uniform across the country has run up against a new era’s anti-immigration politics. So on Tuesday, when Arizona’s polls open for primaries for governor, attorney general and a host of other state and local positions as well as for Congress, some voters will be permitted to vote only in the race for Congress. As voter registration drives intensify in the coming weeks, the list of voters on the “federal only” rolls for the November general elections could reach the thousands. These are voters who could not produce the paper proof of citizenship that Arizona demands for voting in state elections. The unusual division of voters into two tiers imposed by Arizona and Kansas, and being considered in Georgia, Alabama and elsewhere, is at the center of a constitutional showdown and, as Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine, put it, “part of a larger partisan struggle over the control of elections.”
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 Wisconsin Supreme Court stirred some confusion last week, with its Voter ID ruling. It indicates that the DMV must set the standards for obtaining free identification. The high court upheld the state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. But the court added – that the law cannot require people to spend money, to obtain the necessary documents. The document some justices seemed to have in mind, when considering Wisconsin’s Voter ID law, is birth certificates. They can cost $20 or more, and people may need them in order to obtain government identification to vote. The court apparently thought the Voter ID law would then amount to a poll tax, so it implemented what’s called a ‘saving construction’ to keep the law constitutional. Justices left it up to the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles to decide how to accommodate people who can’t obtain a free birth certificate. That’s where confusion and perhaps long lines, enter the picture, according to UW-Madison Political Scientist Barry Burden.
creating confusion and may even open the door to the very type of behavior Republican lawmakers were trying to prevent. Policy makers, attorneys and voter ID experts were struggling Friday with how to interpret a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling from a day earlier, which mandated a change to the law in order to make it constitutional. The court said the state can’t require applicants for state-issued IDs to present government documents that cost money to obtain, such as a copy of a birth certificate. The court left it to the Division of Motor Vehicles to come up with a solution. “We don’t know how that’s going to work,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Thursday shortly after the ruling. When asked whether obtaining photo IDs without having to present government-issued documents verifying a person’s identity could result in fraud, Vos said: “It’s got a potential for it.”
Editorials: Hypocrisy on Wisconsin Supreme Court: Why voter ID decision is wrong | Joshua A. Douglas/Journal-Sentinel
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday issued two decisions that had the effect of upholding the state’s strict voter ID requirement. Crucial to the court’s decisions was its finding that, once it modified a different rule, the voter ID law did not impose too substantial of a burden on qualified voters who do not otherwise have the necessary identification. The split decisions entail both breathtaking judicial activism and ignorance regarding the difference between the federal and state constitutions. First, the conservative-leaning majority found that the voter ID law imposed a severe burden on voters because it would cost money for voters to gather the underlying documentation they might need — such as a birth certificate — to obtain the “free” voter ID. But the majority then forges ahead to adopt a “saving construction” of a state administrative rule to conclude that the law does not, really, require voters to pay money to obtain the documentation. It rewrites the administrative rule so that the voter ID law does not become an unconstitutional poll tax. To justify this maneuver, the court cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision that states “where a saving construction is ‘fairly possible,’ the court will adopt it.” But that U.S. Supreme Court case said no such thing; it instead noted that if a saving construction of the very statute at issue is possible, then the court should avoid the constitutional question and decide the case under that statutory ground.