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Kris Kobach: Court wanted a legal fight on voter law

  • Published Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Because of the Secure and Fair Elections Act of 2011, Kansas now leads the way in securing the integrity of elections. Our photo-ID and proof-of-citizenship rules make election fraud extremely difficult. Other states, such as Alabama and Pennsylvania, have since adopted parts of the Kansas model.

Nevertheless, The Eagle editorial board incessantly criticizes this law and my work to enforce it. In its latest tirade against Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship requirement, the editorial board made two false statements regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council (“Nothing to celebrate,” Dec. 18 Eagle Editorial). It appears that the editorial board didn’t even bother to read the court’s opinion.

First, the editorial board incorrectly claimed that the Supreme Court invalidated Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement. On the contrary, the court reaffirmed Arizona’s right to require proof of citizenship from registering voters. The court held that every state has the sovereign authority to establish and enforce voter qualifications, such as by proving citizenship. The court merely stated that under federal law, Arizona must accept both the state voter-registration form and the federal registration form, even though the federal form as currently written does not require proof of citizenship.

Second, the editorial board declared that rather than accept the court’s ruling, “Kobach has continued to press the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the federal voter-registration form to reflect both states’ requirements that those registering to vote provide … proof of U.S. citizenship.” Here too, the editorial board incorrectly described the court’s ruling.

In fact, I am doing exactly what the Supreme Court suggested a state should do. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said “a state may request that the EAC alter the federal form to include information the state deems necessary to determine eligibility … and may challenge the EAC’s rejection of that request in a suit under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

Under my leadership, Kansas and Arizona have joined forces to sue the EAC as directed by the Supreme Court. We are asking the EAC to change the federal form so that proof of citizenship can be requested from those who use the form. Given the fact that we are doing exactly what the Supreme Court suggested, chances are good that we will succeed.

Furthermore, my office is litigating this suit without spending significant taxpayer dollars. We are not hiring any outside counsel to do the work. Instead, I and the attorneys on my staff are arguing the case ourselves.

In short, we are saving money while taking the steps necessary to ensure that only U.S. citizens can vote in our elections. Although the editorial board may disagree, fully 84 percent of Kansans in one survey felt that proof of citizenship should be required when new voters register.

Those Kansans recognize that this is the only effective way to protect our voter rolls. In Kansas, we make it easy to vote but hard to cheat.

Kris Kobach is the secretary of state of Kansas.

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