U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren gave Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach a court victory, at least for now, as he ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to change the federal voter-registration instructions immediately to reflect the proof-of-citizenship requirements in Kansas and Arizona. But the decision was disappointing.
At least, according to Kobach, this week’s decision avoids the absurd dual voting system that Kobach had threatened to implement, in which those registering with the federal form would be denied the ability to vote in local and state races. Kobach said he would use “extraordinary measures” to verify the citizenship of the 65 Kansans who registered using the federal form between the time the state started requiring proof of citizenship and Melgren’s ruling.
But the decision does nothing to promote voting in Kansas. The League of Women Voters and other grassroots groups will continue to find it hard to conduct voter-registration drives, because people out shopping or at community meetings aren’t carrying around birth certificates or passports.
Nor does the decision help the 15,000 Kansans who’ve used the state form but had their registrations put on hold and voting rights “suspended” for lack of proof of citizenship. Their status doesn’t mean they are undocumented immigrants who sought to vote fraudulently – the intended (and largely fictional) target of Kobach’s law. But unless they come up with the documents, or they are among the several hundred people whose citizenship has been confirmed by election officials via state birth records, they won’t be voting in the upcoming primary and general elections in Kansas.
Voting rights “suspended” for lack of paperwork are voting rights denied.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman