The Kansas requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship could be struck down by a federal court because Secretary of State Kris Kobach failed to file a response earlier this year.
The state’s requirement that voters provide a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when they register to vote had already been weakened after federal courts ruled that the state could not require proof of citizenship of people who register at the Department of Motor Vehicles or with the federal form.
However, the requirement remained intact for voters who registered using the state form or through the state’s website.
A separate lawsuit challenged the law in its entirety on the grounds that the proof-of-citizenship requirement violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.
A federal judge did not grant Kobach’s motion to dismiss the case in July, and now the proof-of-citizenship requirement could be struck down because Kobach’s office failed to file an answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint.
A federal district court clerk has found the state in default status after plaintiffs’ attorneys made a motion this week.
“If somebody doesn’t file an answer to a complaint after the 20-day period expires, then they are deemed to have admitted everything,” said Mark Johnson, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
Kobach’s office did not immediately comment on the default. Johnson said he expects Kobach’s office will make a motion to dismiss it.
The clerk’s entry of default is just the first step in the process, according to Will Lawrence, another attorney for the plaintiffs. The next step would be a judge issuing a default judgment, which would essentially be declaring victory for the plaintiffs because of Kobach’s office’s failure to answer.
“The victory, if this is allowed to stand, is proof-of-citizenship requirement violates equal protection, so it’s unconstitutional,” Johnson said.
Kobach has contended that the requirement protects against voter fraud by noncitizens. Voting-rights advocates say that it puts up hurdles that make it tougher for many citizens.