Appeals Court: Feds don’t have to enforce Kansas proof-of-citizenship law

DENVER (KSNT) – The Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach a blow late Friday, ruling that federal election officials do not have to help enforce the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration law in federal elections.

The court was ruling on an appeal filed by Kansas and Arizona, each of which wanted the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to help enforce requirements the state’s say would crack down on voter fraud.

The ruling means Kansas residents can register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of citizenship.

In Kansas case, it was the law pushed by Kobach to require physical documentation of US citizenship in order to register to vote.

Initially, the EAC Executive Director refused to help the state enforce the requirement when registering to vote in federal elections, like President, US Senate and US House races.

Kobach successfully argued in federal district court the EAC should help enforce the law and the court, at that time, sided with the state saying the Executive Director was compelled to help states when they ask for assistance in matters related to federal elections.

In the decision handed down Friday, the court reversed that lower court ruling writing, in part “…The NVRA (National Voting Rights Act) preempts Arizona’s and Kansas’ state laws insofar as they require Federal Form applicants to provide documentary evidence of citizenship to vote in federal elections. Accordingly, we hold that the EAC is not compulsorily mandated to approve state-requested changes to the Federal Form.”

The court stated the lower court “…incorrectly interpreted the NVRA as subjecting the EA to a nondiscretionary duty to approve state requests.”

Calls to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for a reaction to the ruling were not returned.

The appeals court ruling came just hours after that same court refused to block Kansas’ attempts to delay a federal judge’s ruling that same-sex marriages can take place in the state. The court, in that case, said the state had failed to prove its case in asking for a stay in implementation of that order while Kansas appeals it. The court rejected the appeal, and noted the lower court judge had ordered no same-sex marriages in the state until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 11th.

So far no word from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on what the state will do next.


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