Politics & Government

Federal court blocks Kansas voting rule

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach responds to questions outside the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Aug. 23 after delivering an argument in the legal fight over how the state of Kansas enforces its proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters who register at motor vehicle offices.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach responds to questions outside the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Aug. 23 after delivering an argument in the legal fight over how the state of Kansas enforces its proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters who register at motor vehicle offices. File photo

A federal court has blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship if they register using the federal form.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission approved a controversial rule in late January to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof of citizenship from voters who register using the federal form.

The League of Women Voters brought a lawsuit against the rule, and the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction Friday by a 2-1 decision.

Under the order, Kansas can no longer require people to show proof of citizenship when they register using the federal form and must allow anyone who registered after Jan. 29 to vote regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.

That will enable these voters to cast ballots in the upcoming presidential election unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes.

The decision, which reverses a lower court ruling, is the latest legal setback for Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who championed the proof of citizenship policy. It is being challenged in several lawsuits at both the state and federal level.

Kobach had argued against the injunction in court on the state’s behalf. He could not be reached by phone late Friday.

Brian Newby, the EAC official who initially approved the controversial rule, previously served as Johnson County election commissioner under Kobach’s supervision, and their ties have come under scrutiny.

“With just weeks to go before a critical presidential election, we are grateful to the court of appeals for stopping this thinly veiled discrimination in its tracks,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, in a statement posted to the organization’s website.

“We should be making voting easier, not harder. All eligible Americans deserve the opportunity to register and vote without obstacles.”

It’s unclear at this time how many people will be affected by the ruling or whether federal form registrants will be allowed to vote in state elections.

Prior to the EAC adopting the rule in January, Kobach took the position that federal form registrants, who had not provided proof of citizenship, could vote in federal elections only.

A pending case in Shawnee County could ensure these voters are also able to vote in state and local elections.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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