Court Blocks Kobach’s Scheme For Proof-Of-Citizenship In Kansas Elections

Charlie Riedel/AP
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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was on the receiving end of yet another adverse ruling in the litigation surrounding the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement, which Kobach championed.

A state court in Topeka Friday placed a permanent injunction on a work-around Kobach tried to implement after federal courts deemed the requirement a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Blocked was his system in which Kansas voters who registered to vote using the federal methods that did not require a documentary proof-of-citizenship would only be able to vote in federal elections, and not in state and local races.

State Judge Larry D. Hendricks on Friday said that the “two-tiered system” that Kobach created with a temporary regulation was a violation of his authority under state law, and that a permanent injunction was required to protect voters.

“Just as a homeowner is ill-advised to patch a fractured foundation with duct tape, however, so too has the Defendant’s temporary regulation led to additional challenges for all parties involved,” Hendricks said.

Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement has faced a number of lawsuits that have come at it at various angles. The requirement was only added to the federal voter registration form used in the state after a Kobach ally became the executive director for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is in charge of some of the federal administrative issues surrounding elections. That action was blocked in September by a federal appeals court, which ordered the old version of the federal form be restored in Kansas and the other two states Newby had approved the change for.

A state court had previously placed a temporary injunction on Kobach’s efforts to implement a dual system.

According to Hendricks’ decision Friday, more than 18,000 voters stood to be potentially affected by the two-tiered system, while Kansas, in its brief had put forward evidence of only 25 cases since 2003 of non-citizens being registered to vote.

“The number non-citizen registrations are miniscule compared to the number of voters that potentially will be unable to vote,” Hendricks said.

The court said Kobach did not have the authority to create the two-tiered system.

“The question, then, is whether the Defendant actually has the power to create a two-class system of voter registration, in order to comply with the federal courts’ interpretation of the NVRA, under one of the four statutes he identifies,” Hendricks said. “In this Court’s opinion, he does not”

The lawsuit had been brought by the ACLU and a handful of Kansas voters.

“This ruling is a victory for Kansas voters and a stinging rebuke of Secretary Kobach’s repeated efforts to improperly use his authority to obstruct their access to the ballot,” Sophia Lakin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “This decision recognizes that Kansans’ right to vote in state and local elections should be honored, no matter what registration form they used.”

Read the decision below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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