WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of a proposed regulation that would allow Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to purge the names of more than 34,000 prospective voters will protest at a public hearing next month, but concede there is little else they can do.
The architect behind some of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements, Kobach is pushing an administrative rule that would allow him to throw out any incomplete voter registration forms after 90 days, most of which lack proof-of-citizenship documentation such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers. Purging the suspension list, which had 34,454 names as of Wednesday, would leave just 4,202 names.
“It is a common-sense administrative rule,” Kobach said. “There is no existing rule on how long a county must keep an incomplete record in its file. It is a common-sense rule that will save taxpayers money.”
A hearing is set for Sept. 2 over the purge, but Kobach and his opponents agree that, as secretary of state, he has the power to unilaterally change the rules.
“These are just formalities he has to go through before he can do it,” said state Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat.
Kobach has championed proof-of-citizenship laws as a way to prevent noncitizens from registering to vote, particularly those living unlawfully in the U.S. Critics say that’s extremely rare and such Republican-backed laws hurt voter registration efforts and disenfranchise voters from certain groups that tend to vote Democrat, including minorities and college students.
Democrats will discuss what they can do about voter ID laws at their annual state convention, which started Friday in Wichita. Many voting rights advocates, Ward included, see Kobach’s latest proposal as an effort to avoid media scrutiny and criticism, and say the high number of people on the suspended list shows that Kobach is not making a good faith effort to get these people registered.
“It is all about political cover, OK,” Ward said. “But there is a public hearing and I know there are groups and individuals going to that public meeting to express their opposition.”
Kobach contended opponents are making “a ridiculous partisan argument” claiming voter disenfranchisement, because a person whose incomplete voter registration application is thrown out after 90 days could fill out a new registration card and provide the necessary citizenship documentation. He also argued the 90-day window is more generous than in places like Georgia and Arizona, which have similar proof-of-citizenship requirements.
A breakdown of the suspense list shows that the vast majority — 19,595 prospective voters — claim no party affiliation. Another 7,782 are trying to register as Republicans, 6,078 as Democrats. The remainder includes a small number of Libertarian voters and voters who left that that blank on the form.
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