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Kris W. Kobach: Kansas’ voter law isn’t the same as Arizona’s

  • Published Saturday, June 29, 2013, at 12 a.m.

The Eagle printed an editorial headlined “Kobach wrong again” (June 19 Opinion). It claimed that the state and local laws I have drafted to stop illegal immigration have been struck down in court, and that Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote should be abandoned. The editorial board was wrong on both counts.

Regarding the claim that the courts have struck down immigration-related statutes that I have drafted, the editorial board didn’t do its research. In fact, those laws have done remarkably well in court. The current score is 2-0-2. (A case is not “won” or “lost” until all appeals are finished.)

The two wins were Arizona’s 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld (Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, 2011), and the Valley Park, Mo., ordinance that prohibited employers from hiring unauthorized aliens, which the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld (Gray v. Valley Park, 2009). Both laws took a tough stand against the employment of unauthorized aliens, and both survived every argument that the American Civil Liberties Union could throw at them.

The two “ties” were cases in which the court of appeals upheld part of the law and struck down part of the law. The first was Arizona’s SB 1070 (U.S. v. Arizona, 2012). The Supreme Court upheld the central provision, which required police officers to contact federal immigration authorities when they apprehend illegal aliens in the course of enforcing other laws. That was the core of the law – and the provision that attracted so much opposition from the open-borders crowd. The minor provisions that the court struck down received hardly a mention in the media.

The other draw involved Alabama’s HB 56 (U.S. v. Alabama, 2012). In that case, which went to the 11th Circuit, the vast majority of the Alabama law was upheld. Only a few provisions were struck down.

It wouldn’t have taken the editorial board long to do its homework and print the facts.

The editorial board also argued that Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration will be struck down in the wake of Arizona’s recent loss in the Supreme Court. Therefore, the editorial suggested, Kansas shouldn’t bother to defend its law.

Here, too, the editorial board was wrong. We drafted the Kansas law in 2011 – after the Arizona case was already in front of the 9th Circuit. So we knew exactly what the arguments against the Arizona law were. We intentionally structured the Kansas law differently so that those arguments would not apply.

The Arizona law (which I played no part in drafting) made the mistake of expressly rejecting any voter-registration form that was not accompanied by proof of citizenship. That runs afoul of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which says that states must “accept and use” the federal form, as well as their own state registration forms.

The Kansas law does two things differently. First, unlike Arizona, our law requires election officers to accept the federal form, even if it is not accompanied by proof of citizenship. That means all of the information on the form is accepted as accurate, and a voter record is created in the state’s database. However, the voter’s registration is in “suspense” status until proof of citizenship is received.

Second, our law allows voters to submit proof of citizenship at a different time, and in a different manner, than they submit their registration form. For example, a voter may register by mail, but he can wait as long he wants and then submit a picture of his birth certificate by text message. Under Arizona’s law, that registration form would have been rejected the day it was received.

In spite of these protections in the Kansas law, the editorial board wants Kansas to decline to enforce the law. That is because the editorial board, like many on the left, has always opposed proof-of-citizenship requirements.

That view is out of step with Kansas voters, who overwhelmingly support protecting our voter rolls in this manner. A 2010 SurveyUSA poll showed that 84 percent of Kansans approve of requiring proof of citizenship when voters register.

Their desire to protect our voter rolls is justified. Consider two recent examples of aliens being used in attempts to steal elections.

In 1997, Cowley County voted on a ballot issue allowing a type of hog-farming operation. A few weeks before the election, a bus full of individuals believed to be aliens rolled up to the County Clerk’s Office, where they were unloaded and told to register to vote. The clerk realized what was happening, but she was powerless to stop it.

Another incident happened in 2010 in Kansas City, Mo. In the state representative race between J.J. Rizzo and Will Royster, the election was stolen when Rizzo received about 50 votes illegally cast by citizens of Somalia. The margin of victory? One vote.

That form of voter fraud can no longer occur in Kansas. The editorial board may not like it, but that is now the law in Kansas. And I won’t back down in defending our law.

Kris W. Kobach is the secretary of state of Kansas.

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