WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The fight over a voter proof-of-citizenship law that prevented about 22,000 Kansas residents from casting ballots on Election Day has shifted back to state courts and lawmakers.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned a federal judge’s order that would have forced federal election officials to add citizenship documentation requirements on national voter registration forms for Kansas and Arizona residents. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach has championed the law as a way to limit fraud. Opponents planned to argue that the onerous requirements wrongfully disenfranchise voters.
“Any law that denies the right to vote to over 20,000 Kansas citizens is a bad law,” state Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said. “We are going to try to correct it so that we prevent fraud without denying that right to vote.”
Ward is among the lawmakers seeking to undo the law in the Kansas Legislature, which convenes in January.
The law requires new voters to prove their citizenship with a birth certificate, passport or other documents before they can register.
Kobach has vowed to defend it, saying his re-election proved it was the will of the people. “Voters are overwhelmingly in favor of it,” he said. “So absolutely we will be keeping our law in place, and the voters of Kansas showed that they like it.”
Kobach, known nationally as the architect of a strict Arizona immigration law, further said he planned to challenge the federal appeals court ruling that struck down U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren’s order requiring federal election officials revise the national voter registration forms to require proof of citizenship from Kansas and Arizona residents.
Civil liberties advocates, meanwhile, are also fighting their battle on a state court level. The American Civil Liberties Union says in a pending case in Shawnee County that the law sets up an unconstitutional dual election system in which some can vote in all races and others can vote only in federal races. A district court judge temporarily allowed the dual system for the recent elections, but has yet to decide it on its merits. Julie Ebenstein, staff attorney for the ACLU voting rights project, said the 10th Circuit Court ruling is encouraging for their case.
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