After Kansas began requiring residents to prove they were U.S. citizens to register to vote, the League of Women Voters started focusing its voter registration efforts at naturalization ceremonies, where people readily have such documents on them. Now that immigration officials have prohibited them from copying naturalization certificates, new citizens face discrimination and significant roadblocks in registering to vote, the group told a federal appeals court Thursday. The latest court filing by voting rights groups in a lawsuit unfolding before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals portrays a sample of the possible impacts at issue in the run-up to this year’s elections. Kansas and Arizona are seeking to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to change its federal voter registration form for those states to include special instructions requiring citizenship documentation. In March, a federal judge agreed and ordered the commission to immediately modify its forms, but the 10th Circuit last week put that ruling on hold, at least temporarily. Whatever the courts decide will affect primary elections in August and the general election in November.
Voting rights groups argued in their filing that thousands of U.S. citizens in Kansas and Arizona could be barred from using a federal form to register and vote in the upcoming federal election.
Naturalized citizens, for example, would have to go to an election office and show their original papers to register. Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters in Kansas, told the court in an affidavit that the group also hasn’t been able to register people who were born outside of Kansas or whose name does not exactly match their documentation, such as married women.
To make their point, the voting rights groups cited the massive voter registration suspension list in Kansas, noting that 28 percent of the people who attempted to register as of Jan. 21 had incomplete applications because of the documentation requirements.
As of Thursday, the list has 17,995 people whose registration forms are on hold, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office.