Judge to consider blocking Kansas voter rules in December

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — County election officials in Kansas are likely to have canceled thousands of incomplete voter registrations when a federal judge has the next hearing in a lawsuit challenging the culling of records ordered by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday set a Dec. 4 hearing on a request from two young northeast Kansas residents to block the cancelations while their suit goes forward. Their registrations are incomplete because they’ve failed to comply with a 2013 law requiring new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering.

The two also want Robinson to block enforcement of the proof-of-citizenship requirement — the reason behind most of the 37,700 registrations that were incomplete as of last week. Kobach imposed a rule that took effect Friday, directing counties to cancel more than 31,000 registrations that were incomplete for more than 90 days.

Robinson set the hearing in December to allow the Republican secretary of state to file a written response to the lawsuit and to permit the attorneys representing the two prospective voters to follow with a written answer. Robinson said during a teleconference with the attorneys that she’ll interrupt an ongoing trial to have the hearing in Kansas City, Kansas.

The judge set the schedule after Kobach assured her canceled registrations aren’t being deleted permanently from the state’s database and can be retrieved electronically. He also said later that no one’s voting rights are at stake because the people affected aren’t yet registered.

“There isn’t any urgency that we can see,” Kobach told Robinson.

The lawsuit caused a stir because one of the attorneys filing it is former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the Democrats’ unsuccessful nominee for governor last year.

Kobach argues the measures combat election fraud. Davis voted as a lawmaker for the final version of the proof-of-citizenship law but has argued that it and Kobach’s subsequent actions keep thousands of citizens from voting.

“When you’re trying to infringe on people’s constitutional rights and rights under federal law, you’d expect that you’re going to have some litigation on your hands,” Davis said after the teleconference.

Kobach and county election officials expect the winnowing of records to take weeks, particularly in the most populous of the state’s 105 counties. And in Douglas County, Clerk Jamie Shew, an elected Democrat, said he believes he’s legally obligated to warn people they face a deadline and won’t start canceling incomplete registrations for another 90 days — until early January.

But Kobach said in an interview after the teleconference that rural counties are likely to finish the culling before December, while Davis said, “A lot of it will probably be done by then.”

The secretary of state’s office said incomplete registrations had dropped by about 3,400 by Wednesday, to fewer than 34,300.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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