Thousands of wanna-be Kansas voters who thought they might not be able to cast ballots for president and other federal officials this year are now eligible to vote in them — but not in state or local races. It’s part of the latest fallout from lawsuits surrounding the state law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship — such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers — when they register. Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is defending the law against multiple legal challenges. Supporters of the law say it’s important to make sure those who aren’t U.S. citizens don’t vote. Opponents say non-citizens aren’t voting in significant numbers and the real result is making it harder for the poor, the young and the elderly — those who might have trouble getting documents — to vote. There are so many legal challenges in play that it’s hard to keep track of who can vote and under what circumstances.
Kansan residents who did not provided proof of citizenship when they registered to vote can cast ballots only in the federal races for president, U.S. Senate and House — but only if they registered to vote at motor vehicle offices. That includes voters whose “motor-voter applications” were cancelled after 90 days because they didn’t circle back and provide the proof of citizenship after initially turning in applications.
Kobach is trying to keep everybody who doesn’t provide documents proving their U.S. citizenship out of the voting booth, but a federal judge says that violates the National Voter Registration Law, commonly called the “motor-voter law,” because Congress designed it to encourage voter participation by making it easy to register when people get their driver’s licenses.
The federal courts ordered Kobach to let these “motor-voter” voters whose registrations were cancelled or suspended to cast ballots in the upcoming federal elections while his appeal plays out. A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in August, but it is not likely to rule before the elections.