On January 1, 2013 a new law went into effect in Kansas. The law requires new voters to prove their U.S. citizenship in order to register. As a result of the new regulations, more than 17 thousand Kansans, including more than 3,900 potential voters in Sedgwick County, remain in “suspended” status for failing to provide a birth certificate or other qualifying document when registering. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach authored the Secure and Fair Elections Act. Kobach says most people don’t carry birth certificates around, the law was written in a very permissive way. It allows applicants to take their time to complete their registration. … Doug Bonney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the proof of citizenship document is unnecessary and that the problem does not really exist. “There just isn’t that type of fraud,” Bonney said. “People do not show up at the election authorities and try to register to vote when they’re not citizens, so there’s no need for this.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas over the state’s refusal to allow residents to vote in state elections without showing proof of citizenship. Under a new law, Kansas requires new voters to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. A Supreme Court ruling in June, however, requires that states accept federal standards for voter registration: Voters must swear they are U.S. citizens but aren’t required to show a document. As a result, nearly 18,000 voters in Kansas who registered to vote for the first time this year can vote in federal elections but not in state or local contests because they have not submitted documents proving citizenship. The ACLU says that the two-tier system denies some Kansas voters equal protection under the state constitution. “There is now a class of voters who can vote for president but not vote for secretary of State,” said Julie Ebenstein, a staff attorney for the ACLU. The new Kansas law also requires voters to show identification at polling places. That aspect of the law is also being challenged in a separate court case.
A federal judge has set an expedited schedule in a lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona against a federal agency in hopes of bolstering their states’ enforcement of proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters. A hearing was scheduled for Dec. 13 on the states’ request for a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form to help the states administer their requirements. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, based in Wichita, also told the commission and its top administrator Thursday that they had until Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, to file a written response to the request for such an order. A preliminary injunction would impose the change even before the lawsuit is heard.
Saying he is not willing to maintain a dual registration system, Secretary of State Ken Bennett is asking the court to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to modify its voter registration forms to demand proof of citizenship. In legal filings Wednesday, Bennett said he needs an immediate order to ensure that Arizona and Kansas — which is seeking the same relief — are not denied “their sovereign and constitutional right to establish and enforce voter qualifications.” Without the order, Bennett said the state will forced to register unqualified voters. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Arizona is required to accept the federally designed form, even though it does not require the proof of citizenship that Arizona voters mandated in 2004. The justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said Congress was legally entitled to impose that mandate when it comes to federal elections.
Arizona: Bennett seeks legal relief on proof of citizenship on voter registration forms | The Verde Independent
Not willing to maintain a dual registration system, Secretary of State Ken Bennett wants a court to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to modify its voter registration forms to demand proof of citizenship. In legal filings Wednesday, Bennett said he needs an immediate order to ensure that Arizona — and Kansas, which is seeking the same relief — are not denied “their sovereign and constitutional right to establish and enforce voter qualifications.’ Without the order, Bennett said the state will forced to register unqualified voters. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Arizona is required to accept the federally designed form even though it does not require the proof of citizenship that voters mandated in 2004. The justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said Congress was legally entitled to impose that mandate when it comes to federal elections. But Bennett concluded earlier this month there is a legal work-around: a dual voter registration system, one for those who can prove citizenship and can vote on all races, and a second for those without such proof who could vote only in federal contests. And he ordered counties to put that into place just weeks ago.
In its 2013 decision in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Arizona’s proof of citizenship law for voter registration violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, a stringent anti-immigration law that included provisions requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the proof of citizenship requirement, which it said violated the NVRA. Under the 1993 act, which drastically expanded voter access by allowing registration at public facilities like the DMV, those using a federal form to register to vote must affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they are US citizens. Twenty-eight million people used that federal form to register to vote in 2008. Arizona’s law, the court concluded, violated the NVRA by requiring additional documentation, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or tribal forms. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 7 percent of eligible voters “do not have ready access to the documents needed to prove citizenship.” The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling, finding that states like Arizona could not reject applicants who registered using the NVRA form. Now Arizona and Kansas—which passed a similar proof-of-citizenship law in 2011—are arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision applies only to federal elections and that those who register using the federal form cannot vote in state and local elections. The two states have sued the Election Assistance Commission and are setting up a two-tiered system of voter registration, which could disenfranchise thousands of voters and infringe on state and federal law.
Threatening to upend a tradition of equality that dates back to the founding of the country, Republican political leaders in Kansas and Arizona are discussing plans to establish a multi-tier voting rights system for their states if they lose a voting rights case currently in federal court. The net effect would be to bar some U.S. citizens—mostly immigrants, racial minorities, the elderly, and the poor—from voting in state and local elections even as they cast ballots in federal contests. For the past several years, in response to ongoing demographic changes that are making the U.S. increasingly non-white and non-Anglo-Saxon, Republican-dominated state legislatures have passed a variety of laws making it harder to register or to vote. But this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering because the national “motor voter” registration form demands only a signed oath of citizenship. The Court held that states cannot increase the federal voter registration requirements on the motor voter form, but they may ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to add requirements to it. Rebuffed by the EAC, Kansas and Arizona filed a court case to bend the EAC to their will, but in the likely event they fail, the tiered voting system is a backup plan.
Barred by the Supreme Court from requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections, Arizona is complying — but setting up a separate registration system for local and state elections that will demand such proof. The state this week joined Kansas in planning for such a two-tiered voting system, which could keep thousands of people from participating in state and local elections, including next year’s critical cycle, when top posts in both states will be on the ballot. The states are using an opening left in June by the United States Supreme Court when it said that the power of Congress over federal elections was paramount but did not rule on proof of citizenship in state elections. Such proof was required under Arizona’s Proposition 200, which passed in 2004 and is one of the weapons in the border state’s arsenal of laws enacted in its battle against illegal immigration. The two states are also jointly suing the federal Election Assistance Commission, arguing that it should change the federal voter registration form for their states to include state citizenship requirements. While the agency has previously denied such requests, the justices said the states could try again and seek judicial review of those decisions. “If you require evidence of citizenship, it helps prevent people who are not citizens from voting, and I simply don’t see a problem with that,” said Tom Horne, the Arizona attorney general.
Arizona: Ballots could split federal, state races to enforce citizenship-to-vote law | Arizona Daily Star
Secretary of State Ken Bennett is directing election officials to separate their federal election ballots from state and local races to keep those who cannot prove citizenship from voting in the latter. Bennett’s order followed a formal opinion Monday by state Attorney General Tom Horne. He conceded that, for the time being, Arizona must allow people who use a special form designed by the federal Election Assistance Commission to register to vote, even though that form does not require proof of citizenship. Arizona voters mandated such proof in 2004. But the U.S. Supreme Court concluded Congress is entitled to require states to accept the federally designed registration form. Horne said Monday that he believes that directive applies only to elections for federal offices like the president and congressional races, which he believes frees Arizona to apply its proof-of-citizenship mandate for anyone who wants to vote for anything from governor on down the ballot.
Secretary of State Jason Gant will convene a task force this fall to consider possible changes to the state plan under the Help America Vote Act. The decision to name a task force comes after Gant and the Board of Elections deflected a request to establish in-person absentee voting and voter registration stations in three predominantly Native American communities. In his release announcing the task force, Gant said that issue and others could be addressed by the task force. The news release said Gant hoped the group would “strive for uniformity in our election system across all South Dakota counties.” Earlier this summer, voting rights group Four Directions asked the state’s Board of Elections to approve a request to place absentee voting stations in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions Executive Director OJ Semans noted the state still had about $9 million in HAVA funds, money that Congress appropriated to states to modernize voting equipment and procedures following the controversial presidential election of 2000. Semans estimated the request would cost the state $50,000 per election cycle.
National: GOP State Officials Blame Republican Obstructionism For Blocking Voting Restrictions | TPM
There’s a deep irony about a joint lawsuit Republican state officials in Arizona and Kansas have filed against the Obama administration in order to require voters to present proof of citizenship in order to register to vote: Republicans’ own national obstructionism on voting rights is a key blockade for the state-level restrictions to go through. The lawsuit, filed by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and following Scalia’s guidance issued in the Supreme Court case this July, claims that the Obama administration is illegally blocking Arizona and Kansas’ efforts to require proof of citizenship for registering to vote. The suit argues that failing to staff the vacant Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which is charged with overseeing voter registration guidelines related to the national voter registration form, is blocking these states’ ability to change their voter registration processes. “The lack of quorum unconstitutionally prevents Plaintiffs, in violation of the Tenth Amendment, from exercising their constitutional right, power, and privilege of establishing and enforcing voting qualifications, including voter registration requirements,” the states said in their complaint.
Neither his good works with Boy Scouts and other charities nor his status as a first-time offender offset the seriousness of Joseph C. Kupfer’s crimes – stealing hundreds of thousands in federal Help America Vote Act money – and he was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison. That was the recommended time under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and U.S. District Judge William “Chip” Johnson found the term to be reasonable, based on the goals of punishment and deterrence. Kupfer, 50, a onetime union official and lobbyist, is the last of three individuals to be sentenced in two separate but related criminal cases. One was tax evasion, for which he was tried with his wife, Elizabeth “Daisy” Kupfer. The other involved overbilling on contracts under the federal law enacted to help bring secretaries of state up to speed in voting technology and procedures.
At a specially called meeting, the St. Croix Board of Elections discussed a newly released audit report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Office of the Inspector General. The meeting on Friday was brief because a quorum was not met, with members Raymond Williams and Lisa Harris Moorehead absent and Rupert Ross and Roland Moolenaar excused. Board Chairman Adelbert Bryan and members Lilliana Belardo O’Neal and Glenn Webster were present, along with newly appointed Elections System Supervisor Caroline Adams Fawkes, and they moved into executive session to discuss the confidential 16-page report. In a letter accompanying the report and addressed to Bryan, Inspector General Curtis Crider said he had sent the proposed report titled Elections System of the Virgin Islands Compliance With the Help America Vote Act of 2002 for Bryan’s review and comment.
Kansas: Two legislators will file bill to change proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters | Lawrence Journal-World
Two legislators will file a bill during the special session next week that they said would fix a law that has jeopardized the voter registrations of approximately 15,000 Kansans. Sonny Scroggins, a social activist in Topeka, protested Wednesday outside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office. Scroggins opposes the state’s new requirement, pushed by Kobach, that people show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote. Scroggins’ protest came on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Noting that there are elections scheduled this fall in Johnson County, state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said today, “Suspended voters will not be able to vote in these upcoming elections without passage of this act. We must protect the right for all people to vote.” In Kansas, approximately 15,000 Kansans cannot currently cast ballots because their voter registrations are in “suspense” because they haven’t proved their U.S. citizenship with a birth certificate or other document. The state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement became effective Jan.1 .
Arizona and Kansas have taken Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s suggestion and sued the Obama administration in a continuing effort by both states to require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, was announced by Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and joined by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a high-profile architect of restrictionist laws, including Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. The issue involves the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to let people register to vote simply by attesting they are citizens, when renewing their driver’s license or applying for social services. A 2004 law adopted by the voters in Arizona added the requirement that people registering to vote also provide proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court struck down that law earlier this year, concluding that it is trumped by the motor voter law. Arizona, the court ruled, could not add new requirements to the form prescribed by the federal law. But during oral arguments in March, Scalia expressed his bafflement that Arizona did not launch a broader assault on the constitutionality of the NVRA form, written by the Election Assistance Commission. The state simply contended in that case that its proof of citizenship law did not violate the federal law. Even Scalia disagreed with that, voting against Arizona in the ruling, but also giving them a valuable tip in his 7-2 majority opinion.
Kansas: Kris Kobach and the Arizona Secretary of State sue federal election board | Topeka Capital-Journal
Facing the possibility of legal action over 15,000-plus suspended voter registrations, Secretary of State Kris Kobach struck back by announcing Wednesday his own suit against a federal election commission. Kobach said at a news conference that he and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, both Republicans, have filed a complaint against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asking that federal voter registration forms issued to residents of their states include state-specific proof of citizenship requirements like the ones on state forms largely responsible for putting thousands of Kansas registrations on hold. Kobach said the court case is “the first of its kind.” Kansas voters will be best served when the EAC amends the Kansas-specific instructions on the Federal Form to include submitting concrete evidence of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote,” Kobach said.
Tribal-voting advocates are pressuring South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant to approve the release of federal funds for satellite voting centers to serve Native American voters in 2014. Four Directions Inc., a Native American voting rights group based on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, asked the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday to investigate Gant’s refusal to release Help America Vote Act funds for voting centers at Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions also wants DOJ to investigate the recent refusal to support the satellite requests by the state Board of Elections on a 4-3 vote with Gant leading and voting with the opposition. Four Directions Executive Director O.J. Semans attacked those decisions in his letter to the DOJ, saying they reflected ongoing inequality in voting access for tribal people. Semans wrote “it should cause you and everyone who cares about equal access to the ballot box for Native Americans grave concern that this denial is steeped in an intent to discriminate.”
In the years since Bush vs. Gore highlighted the inconsistent, patchwork and sometimes tenuous nature of the nation’s voting system, election officials throughout the country have taken steps to improve the process. But variety still abounds since that disputed 2000 presidential race, in part because the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment allocates power to the states, generally barring federal officials from imposing a single ballot design standard. Some voters still darken circles on ballots next to their choices. Others use an iPad-like device. In Oregon and Washington, elections are done through the mail. In New Jersey, voters cast their ballot on a grid that opponents of the design say gives an unfair advantage to established powers.
Arizona is renewing its bid to let election officials here demand proof of citizenship from everyone registering to vote, paving the way for yet another lawsuit. In a letter to the acting executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, state Attorney General Tom Horne demanded that she allow Arizona to require that those registering to vote using a commission-designed form first show they are citizens. Horne told Alice Miller he expects action by Aug. 19 or he will sue. But Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Horne should not expect approval. She said the commission staff rejected an identical request in 2005, a decision left intact by a 2-2 vote of the panel itself. And Perales insisted nothing has changed since then. Horne said if that happens he will seek court review. The fight concerns a 2004 voter-approved measure which requires both proof of citizenship to register and identification to cast a ballot at the polls. Foes challenged both.
Arizona is renewing its bid to let election officials demand proof of citizenship from everyone registering to vote, paving the way for yet another lawsuit. In a letter to Alice Miller, acting executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, state Attorney General Tom Horne demanded she allow Arizona to require proof of citizenship from those registering to vote using a commission-designed form by Aug. 19 or he will sue. Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Horne should not expect approval. She said the commission staff rejected an identical request in 2005, a decision left intact by a 2-2 vote of the panel itself. And Perales insisted nothing has changed since then. If that happens, Horne said he will seek court review.
A state panel declined Wednesday to go on record as supporting a plan to set up satellite voter registration and absentee voting offices on three American Indian reservations in South Dakota. The State Election Board voted 4-3 against a plan to support the satellite voting stations after some members said the state first must consult a federal agency to find out whether federal funds can legally be used for the stations. Secretary of State Jason Gant will send a formal request asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission whether funds South Dakota received from the Help America Vote Act of 2002 can be used for the three stations. Three Indian tribes and a voting-rights group have asked South Dakota to help set up satellite voter registration and absentee voting offices for tribal members who live far from county courthouses. The state is being asked to use federal money to help operate satellite stations at Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Reservation, at Wanblee on the Pine Ridge Reservation and at Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Two powerful Democrats are poised to urge President Obama to resuscitate a defunct federal panel created to help Americans vote. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) are preparing a resolution calling on the president to fill the vacancies on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Hoyer said Tuesday. The four-seat board has been empty for more than a year, largely because GOP leaders — wary of Washington’s role in state-run elections — have refused to recommend nominees to fill the spots, as current law dictates. That’s a mistake, Hoyer said, particularly in a political environment where an increasing number of states have made it tougher to vote in the name of fighting fraud. “The Election Assistance Commission was established to provide advice and council on best practices on elections. It has been allowed to atrophy, and the Republicans want to eliminate it,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “It’s interesting but disappointing.”
In a ruling that raises more questions that it resolves, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for federal voter registration forms. In Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., a 7-2 majority determined that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 preempts the state requirement. In the short term, this means that those who register to vote through a federal form only need to sign the form, swearing to be U.S. citizens. Georgia, Kansas and Alabama have proof-of-citizenship requirements identical to Arizona’s, which also seem to be negated now. But in reacting to the court’s decision, detractors of the nullified state requirement said they were still concerned about a back-door option created by the ruling. “What the Supreme Court gave the federal government with one hand, it suggested could soon be taken away with the other,” wrote Richard Hasen, a political science professor from the University of California, Irvine School of Law, in a Daily Beast column.* That’s because the ruling allows Arizona to ask the federal Election Assistance Commission to add proof-of-citizenship as part of the federal registration form; if the commission — which currently has no appointed commissioners — rejected the request, then the state could take that request to court.
This week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling partly blocks Georgia from enforcing a law requiring would-be voters to prove U.S. citizenship, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said Wednesday. In a 7-2 decision Monday, the court ruled a similar statute in Arizona is pre-empted by federal law. Passed in 2009, Georgia’s law requires voter registration applicants to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, such as copies of passports or birth certificates. Kemp, however, said Georgia has never been able to enforce that statute because it has not been given access to a federal immigration database it could use to confirm the U.S. citizenship of those seeking to vote. He said he is now considering asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to add new instructions on federal voter registration forms so Georgia can require proof of U.S. citizenship. In its ruling, the court indicated that is a possible pathway forward for Arizona. “We will put all options on the table — whether we need to talk to the governor or Legislature or the Attorney General’s Office,” Kemp said.
Editorials: Gift or Gotcha: What to Make of Scalia’s Arizona Opinion | Janai S. Nelson/Huffington Post
On Monday — just over twenty years to the day that President Bill Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act (affectionately known as “Motor Voter Law”) into law — the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s attempt to tack a proof-of-citizenship requirement onto the federal voter registration form was in violation of the Act. Given Arizona’s racial and ethnic demographics, the burden of this requirement fell heavily upon the state’s Latino and Native American voters. However, Arizona residents were given a reprieve — at least for now — by Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Court’s staunchest conservatives, who authored the opinion in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
Voting and civil rights groups cheered a decision by the Supreme Court Monday that struck down an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voting. The court’s 7-2 ruling said Arizona’s voter-approved Proposition 200, which required proof of citizenship for voter registration, was trumped by the federal “motor voter” law that only requires a potential voter to swear to their citizenship. Justice Samuel Alito, in one of two dissenting opinions, said the court’s ruling “seriously undermines” the state’s interest in preserving the integrity of elections. And Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said late Monday that the state is not about to give up the fight, saying the state would pursue appeals with the Election Assistance Commission and the courts. But Proposition 200 opponents think it is too late for the state, now that the Supreme Court has ruled on the case.
Advocates of tougher voter registration standards have racked up wins in recent years — voter ID laws have taken hold across the nation, for example. But those who believe that government should make voting as easy as possible just gained a significant victory with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision slapping down an Arizona law that required potential voters to prove their citizenship. In its 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, the so-called motor voter law, trumped an Arizona law passed in 2004. The state law demanded that voters produce documentation of their citizenship at the time they registered to vote. The federal law requires those registering in federal elections only to attest to their citizenship. The process is simple enough that people can register by postcard. The high court’s decision on the Arizona law put an extra bounce in the step of officials at civil and voting-rights organizations.
Editorials: Pyrrhic victory for federal government in Arizona voter registration case? | Marty Lederman/SCOTUSblog
The Court, by a seven-to-two vote, today held that federal law preempts — that is to say, renders invalid — an Arizona law requiring voter registration officials to reject a voter’s application for registration if it is not accompanied by evidence of U.S. citizenship above and beyond the attestation of citizenship the applicant has made on the federal “Motor Voter” form. Lyle is almost certainly correct, however, that what appears at first to be a significant victory for the federal government might in fact be something much less than that — indeed, might establish important restrictions on Congress’s authority to determine eligibility for voting in federal elections, in a way that implicates current and potential future federal legislation.
Iowa: State auditor will review use of federal money to investigate alleged voter fraud | Des Moines Register
The Iowa state auditor’s office has agreed to review whether Secretary of State Matt Schultz has improperly used federal money to investigate possible illegal voting in Iowa. State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who was appointed to her post last month by Gov. Terry Branstad, detailed the plans in a letter sent last week to state Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington. Because Mosiman formerly worked in the secretary of state’s office, she said she has assigned final responsibility for the review to her chief deputy, Warren Jenkins. The state auditor’s office agreed to proceed after being informed by the Inspector General of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission that federal officials did not plan to conduct the review because the commission did not have a sufficient number of members to constitute a quorum. Without a quorum, the commission cannot issue rulings.
The president has named the members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration and tasked them with reporting back within six months of their first meeting, scheduled for June. The unfortunate fact is that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is already tasked to do what the commission is being asked to do, and we would do better to focus our limited resources and attention to such matters on making the EAC a serious professional body that focuses on the many and evolving challenges of election administration in 21st-century America. The other fact that seems to elude most is the sheer complexity of election administration. As a former member of Brazil’s electoral tribunal has put it, “There is no function of the modern state, short of going to war, that is as complex as election administration.”