Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was sued Thursday by people seeking to block him from imposing a dual voter registration policy as part of the state’s proof-of-citizenship law. But Kobach said that while his office has done some planning for such a system, he’s trying to avoid creating it. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay rights group, and prospective voters Aaron Belenky of Overland Park and Scott Jones of Lawrence. It seeks to prevent Kobach from creating a registration system in which some voters are eligible to cast ballots only in presidential, U.S. Senate and congressional races, while others can cast ballots in all races. The different treatment would be based on whether the prospective voter uses a national registration form _ which requires only that someone sign a statement that he or she is a U.S. citizen _ without complying with the state’s additional requirement to present a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship papers. People using a Kansas form could vote in all races, but only if they complied with the proof-of-citizenship requirement, which took effect in January.
Kobach said Kansas will be forced to adopt a dual registration system if the federal government does not modify the national registration form to help Kansas enforce its proof-of-citizenship rule. He’s engaged in a separate legal battle to force federal officials to change the national form. “We have not implemented any two-tiered election system,” Kobach said. “We have merely laid contingency plans.”
But the lawsuit said Kobach already has imposed the new policy on his own through a directive this summer to county election officials and that his actions violate voters’ right to equal legal protection under the state constitution.
“There’s nothing in the statute to give him the authority _ or any state agency the authority _ to just make stuff up,” Tom Witt, Equality Kansas’ executive director, said in an interview. “This is just over the top, egregious, clearly illegal and probably unconstitutional.”