If Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could claim a minor triumph in federal court Friday, there is nothing to celebrate about Kobach’s law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote and the absurd roadblock it’s creating for thousands of would-be voters in Kansas. Rather than accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last summer invalidating Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement as also applying to Kansas, Kobach has continued to press the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the federal voter-registration form to reflect both states’ requirements that those registering to vote provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship. The current federal form requires only that applicants sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, swearing they are citizens.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren stopped short Friday of giving Kobach what he wanted – a preliminary injunction to force the commission to modify the federal form to acknowledge the states’ restrictions. But the judge ordered the commission to act by Jan. 17, adding that the matter had been unreasonably delayed and now risked interfering with 2014 elections.
Getting any decision out of the commission may be difficult. Created by the 2002 Help America Vote Act, the four-member panel hasn’t had a quorum since 2010 and has had no members since 2011, though two nominations are pending. The judge said that if the commission doesn’t act by Jan. 17, the state requests will be deemed denied.