When Brian Newby took the helm of a federal election agency, he left behind an unfolding scandal in Kansas in which he was having an affair with a woman he promoted in his previous job and used her to skirt oversight of their expenses, prompting a local prosecutor to investigate, according to e-mails obtained by the Associated Press. The affair and resulting fallout were revealed in hundreds of e-mails ordered released after the AP sued Johnson County, where Newby was the top election official before leaving to become executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The e-mails – coupled with hundreds more obtained from the Kansas secretary of state’s office through a separate open records request – portray an election official who berated employees and deliberately bypassed supervision. They also document a toxic workplace created by his affair with then-Assistant Election Commissioner Jessica White, an apparent violation of county policy on intimate relationships with subordinates. In a June 2015 exchange from his work e-mail to her personal address, the then-married Newby told White: “You, my little lover, are so wonderful.” Newby and White did not respond to numerous phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.Full Article: U.S. elections chief left behind scandal in Kansas | The Wichita Eagle.
For years, states have been sounding the alarm about voter fraud and pushing laws to prevent it. One such law would require voters to prove their citizenship, with a birth certificate, passport, or the like, before casting a ballot. This month a federal court slapped down proof-of-citizenship laws, but not for good. The opinion leaves wiggle room, and state lawmakers are not giving up. They are, however, wasting their effort. Anti-fraud measures can make elections safer in some circumstances, but usually they either have no effect (other than creating red tape) or make matters worse. My research proves it. Let’s get up to speed. In 2004, Arizonans approved an initiative requiring voters to prove their citizenship before they could vote. In 2013, the Supreme Court held [PDF] that federal law—specifically, the National Voter Registration Act—preempted the initiative. That Act requires states to use a form, developed by the federal Election Assistance Commission, to register voters for federal elections. The form requires would-be voters to swear, under penalty of law, that they are US citizens. States can ask the EAC to add state-specific instructions to the federal form, including additional requirements on citizenship, but they cannot demand it. Other states—Alabama, Georgia, Kansas—adopted laws like Arizona’s, and they worked many channels to get them enforced. But their efforts failed. States courts, federal courts [PDF], and the EAC [PDF] put proof of citizenship on ice.Full Article: JURIST - Why Proof of Citizenship Won't Improve Election Integrity.
Here’s the background of the Newby case. Kansas, Georgia and Alabama have been trying to make voting harder for voters through a series of restrictive voter ID laws. Another approach of these states has deployed is forcing voters to produce documentary evidence that they are American citizens when they register to vote. Asking for documentary proof of citizenship may sound reasonable enough, at first blush, but this runs afoul of the federal “motor voter” law which bars states from asking for additional information when voters register to vote using a standard federal form. The whole point of the motor voter law (whose formal name is National Voter Registration Act of 1993), was to make it easier for eligible Americans to register to vote when they were at the local DMV. While the legislators who pass these restrictive voting laws may think they are barring non-citizens from voting, instead these laws can disenfranchise regular Americans, especially those who were born at home instead of a hospital. These Americans may find it difficult, or well neigh impossible, to produce documentation of their birth proving that they are who they know they are: American citizens.Full Article: JURIST - What's the Matter with Kansas: The Voting Edition.
National: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel | The Washington Post
A U.S. appeals court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a federal voter registration form wrote Monday that federal law leaves it to a federal elections agency — not the states — to determine whether such a change is necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The panel wrote that although the document requirement “unquestionably” hinders voter registration groups ahead of the November elections, there was “precious little” evidence of voter fraud by noncitizens, the problem the states said the measure is intended to fight. The Kansas secretary of state had told the court that “between 2003 and 2015 eighteen noncitizens had tried to or successfully registered to vote. Only one of them attempted to use the Federal Form,” the judges wrote.Full Article: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel - The Washington Post.
High-ranking congressional Democrats are raising more serious concerns about a move by the director of a federal voting agency that made it easier for several red states to require documentary proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Robert A. Brady and Rep. James E. Clyburn urged the Election Assistance Commission in a letter sent Wednesday to formally rescind a change made in January to the instructions on the federal voter registration form for Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, which allowed those states to require citizenship proof. A federal court found this month that the move, which was carried out unilaterally by the agency’s executive director, Brian Newby, could disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters. Ruling that the move may violate federal voting law, the court blocked it from being enforced pending a resolution of the case. The letter outlines what the lawmakers called “troubling findings” from their probe into the issue — among them, that Newby conducted no written analysis of the impact of the change, and that he himself may no longer be certain that it was legal.Full Article: Dems Seek Reversal on Voter Registration Hurdle - NBC News.
Voting rights advocates are accusing a Washington bureaucrat of helping Republican-led states enforce tight restrictions on voter registration, a move they say turned a federal voting agency into a de facto ally of state officials looking to make voting harder. A progressive group on Wednesday called on the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to conduct an internal investigation into the actions taken by Brian Newby, the agency’s executive director. The group, Allied Progress, charged that Newby had improper private communications with his former boss, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and perhaps other election officials, about their requests to change the federal voter registration form to require applicants to show proof of citizenship. Patricia Layfield, the inspector general of the EAC, said no decision had yet been made on whether to open an investigation into Newby’s actions. “I continue to consider the various options available,” Layfield told NBC. “I’m taking the concerns expressed in the letter very seriously.”Full Article: Voter Registration Flap Still Haunting Election Agency - NBC News.
Kansas: DC group wants inspector general to examine Brian Newby’s voter decision | The Kansas City Star
A Washington group has renewed its call for an investigation of Brian Newby, the former head of the Johnson County Election Office and now in charge of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, or EAC. Allied Progress has written the EAC’s inspector general, asking her to examine Newby’s decision to approve applications from three states, including Kansas, to modify their federal registration forms in order to require documentary proof of citizenship to register. Newby made the decision to allow the changes despite the absence of formal approval from the EAC’s board of comissioners. Newby said he had the authority to make the decision on his own. Several groups sued to stop implementation of the requirement. In September, a federal appeals court blocked Kansas and the other states from changing their federal forms to require citizenship proof.Full Article: DC group asks for investigation into former Kansas election official | The Kansas City Star.
A federal court has blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship if they register using the federal form. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission approved a controversial rule in late January to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof of citizenship from voters who register using the federal form. The League of Women Voters brought a lawsuit against the rule, and the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction Friday by a 2-1 decision. Under the order, Kansas can no longer require people to show proof of citizenship when they register using the federal form and must allow anyone who registered after Jan. 29 to vote regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.Full Article: Federal court blocks Kansas voting rule | The Wichita Eagle.
National: Appeals Court Blocks Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement for Voters in 3 States | Associated Press
A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. The 2-1 ruling is a victory for voting rights groups who said a U.S. election official illegally changed proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal registration form at the behest of the three states. People registering to vote in other states are only required to swear that that they are citizens, not show documentary proof. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia acted swiftly in the case, issuing a two-page, unsigned ruling just a day after hearing oral arguments. A federal judge in July had refused to block the requirement while the case is considered on the merits. The League of Women Voters and civil rights groups argued that the requirements could lead to the “mass disenfranchisement” of thousands of potential voters — many of them poor, African-American and living in rural areas.Full Article: Appeals Court Blocks Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement for Voters in 3 States - NBC News.
National: U.S. appeals court to hear challenge to proof-of-citizenship voting requirement | The Washington Post
Civil rights groups are set to ask a federal appeals court panel in Washington on Thursday to block Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from enforcing proof-of-citizenship requirements for people using a federal form to register to vote. The League of Women Voters and its state chapters, the NAACP in Georgia and other groups said in court briefs that the U.S. Justice Department agrees with their February lawsuit. In them, they alleged Brian D. Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, improperly and unilaterally granted requests by the three states to require proof of citizenship for new voters on the federal registration form, reflecting state registration requirements. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington in June rejected a request to block the three states from enforcing the change, a decision the civil rights groups appealed.Full Article: U.S. appeals court to hear challenge to proof-of-citizenship voting requirement - The Washington Post.
A federal appeals court on Thursday seemed likely to side with voting rights groups seeking to block Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. Judges hearing arguments in the case considered whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form’s proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice. The dispute is part of a slew of challenges this year that civil rights groups have brought against various state voting laws they claim are designed to dampen turnout among minority groups that tend to favor Democrats. Those challengers have already succeeded in stopping voter ID requirements in North Carolina and Texas and restrictions elsewhere. In the citizenship case, a coalition including the League of Women Voters and civil rights groups say the requirement to show proof undermines efforts to register new voters and deprives eligible voters of the right to vote in federal elections.Full Article: Appeals court sympathetic to challenge over voter rules | McClatchy DC.
For years, Kris Kobach has fought against illegal immigration. He helped write two of the nation’s most strict immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama and helped develop a now-defunct national immigration security system. Now Kobach, the Republican secretary of state for Kansas, is embroiled in court fights over his repeated attempts to require Kansans to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote. Although he has repeatedly lost in court, one case that remains open will determine whether thousands of Kansans will be able to vote in November’s local and state elections. The saga began in 2011 when Kansas passed the Secure and Fair Elections Act. The law, written by Kobach, requires those registering to vote after Jan. 1, 2013, to provide documentary proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate or a passport. … In September 2013, the ACLU sued Kobach, contending that the proof of citizenship requirement split Kansas voters into two “separate and unequal classes.” In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not require proof of citizenship for people who register using the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s national mail voter registration form. Kobach was allowing those who registered in Kansas with proof of citizenship to vote in all elections, but prohibited those who registered with the EAC form – without proof of citizenship – from voting in state and local elections in Kansas.Full Article: Courts Will Rule Whether Thousands of Kansas Residents Can Vote - NBC News.
A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in September in an appeal that could affect the voting rights of thousands of voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama in upcoming elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday set a Sept. 8 hearing date in the case of a U.S. election official who without public notice required documentary proof of citizenship on a national voter registration form used by residents of the three states.
The right to vote is turning into a tooth-and-claw saga in Kansas, thanks to right-wing ideologues’ determination to force new voters to produce a passport, a birth certificate or naturalization papers as proof of citizenship. This is unheard-of in most of the nation, where aspiring voters are required only to swear to being citizens under penalty of prosecution for fraud. But in Kansas, the requirement that citizenship be documented has become a grave electoral impediment that is being challenged on two legal fronts. In the first, a federal district judge in May ordered the state to register thousands of people who had been denied federal voting privileges because they did not produce proof of citizenship when they tried to register at motor vehicle offices. Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the requirement violated the National Voter Registration Act provision that “only the minimum amount of information” is needed to certify a voter. The state is appealing her ruling.Full Article: The Struggle to Vote in Kansas - The New York Times.
There is nothing more important to American democracy than the participation of its citizens through voting. Voting in local, state and federal elections is a precious right that unfortunately is the subject of considerable confusion in Kansas these days. With the primary election less than a month away, Kansas remains mired in a number of court battles over which registered voters are allowed to vote and in which contests. Last week, a federal judge refused to block a decision by the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to present proof of citizenship to complete their registrations using a federal form. In other states, the federal voter registration form requires voters to swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens but doesn’t require citizenship proof such as a birth certificate or passport. Legal action challenging the EAC decision still is active, but the judge said the decision should stand until the case is decided at trial.Full Article: Editorial: Voting rights / LJWorld.com.
National: Federal judge rejects bid to block proof of citizenship for new voters in three states | The Washington Post
A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday rejected a request that would have blocked Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from enforcing proof-of-citizenship requirements for people using a federal form to register to vote. The decision by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon came in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters, the NAACP in Georgia and other civil rights groups that sought a preliminary injunction. The groups filed suit in February after Brian D. Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, notified the three states in a Jan. 29 letter that they could require documentary proof of citizenship on the federal voter registration form. The Justice Department did not defend Newby’s decision and instead sided with the plaintiffs. A department spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.Full Article: Federal judge rejects bid to block proof of citizenship for new voters in three states - The Washington Post.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union are asking a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to act quickly on their motion to block the use of amended federal voter registration forms that require Kansans to show proof of U.S. citizenship. In a letter to Judge Richard J. Leon, the ACLU said leaving the issue unresolved threatens to complicate upcoming state and federal elections in Kansas and the two other states involved in the case. “The federal primary elections will take place in Kansas on August (2), 2016, just over a month from now,” the letter stated. “The general federal elections will occur in November, a mere four months from now, and voter registration requirements in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia require resolution well before then.”Full Article: ACLU urges judge to rule quickly on Kansas voter registration case / LJWorld.com.
Kansas: Judge Reiterates Kansas Attorney General Kobach Unable to Encumber Voting | Associated Press
A judge is standing by his earlier ruling that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has no legal right to bar people from casting ballots in local and state elections because they registered to vote using a federal form that did not require proof of citizenship. In a ruling made public Thursday, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis rejected Kobach’s request that he reconsider an earlier decision. Theis said in January that the right to vote under state law is not tied to the method of registration. Two weeks after that decision, Brian Newby, the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, added a documentary citizenship requirement on the national voter registration form for residents of Kansas, Georgia and Alabama. Newby unilaterally changed the national form without approval from the agency’s commissioners. That change prompted Kobach to ask the judge to reconsider his ruling.Full Article: Judge Reiterates Kansas AG Kobach Unable to Encumber Voting - ABC News.
Kansas: Former Johnson County election chief Brian Newby rises, then falls into national controversy | The Kansas City Star
The League of Women Voters in 2014 honored Brian D. Newby, then the Johnson County election commissioner, for his work in helping people register to vote. The league this year sued him for allegedly doing the opposite. Yet, as Newby said recently in a brief phone interview, “I’m the same person with the same values” as that award recipient. Recent headlines tell a different story, one of a spectacular fall into unfamiliar controversy. Once regarded as something of a rock star among the nation’s election gurus, Newby has drawn intense fire from more than one direction after becoming executive director of a bipartisan federal elections panel in November. Voting rights groups have asked a federal court to invalidate one of Newby’s first actions taken at the helm of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Some have alleged that a unilateral decision he made was a gift to his former boss, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who had offered high praise of Newby to the federal commission considering his appointment.Full Article: Former Johnson County election chief Brian Newby rises, then falls into national controversy | The Kansas City Star.
Three Democratic U.S. congressmen on Wednesday asked a federal agency to provide information regarding whether a top federal elections official had the right to unilaterally change voter registration forms in three states to require proof of citizenship. Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady and James E. Clyburn asked the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission for records connected to EAC executive director Brian Newby’s amendment in February of forms in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. The group is seeking documents relating to requests from the three states to modify voter registration forms; all analysis of the impact of modifying federal voter registration forms; and all documents giving Newby the authority to unilaterally make the changes. Voting rights activists criticized the changes Newby made in February as a “secretive move” that created additional barriers for potential voters.Full Article: Congressmen question voter registration actions by official.