Politics & Government

Kansas will pay ACLU $20,000 for attorney fees in proof-of-citizenship voting case

Kansas lawyers have settled with the American Civil Liberties Union to pay less than a federal judge ordered for legal fees stemming from the battle over the state’s proof-of-citizenship voting law.

The secretary of state’s office will pay $20,000 to the ACLU after the two sides settled a federal court case, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a news release. The agreement comes after U.S. Judge Julie Robinson ordered then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office in August to pay the ACLU $26,214.79 in attorney fees and other expenses.

Robinson in June struck down the voter citizenship law, which required that people provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Kobach had championed the law and personally defended it in court.

Robinson found that the law “disproportionately impacts duly qualified registration applicants, while only nominally preventing noncitizen voter registration.” She ordered Kobach not to enforce the law and its accompanying regulations.

During the trial, Kobach said the law was working.

Kobach, a Republican, lost the race for governor in the November election.

The attorney general’s office has since taken over representing the state and appealed Robinson’s order that Kobach’s office pay attorney fees. The settlement with the ACLU was reached after a mediation on Friday, and the appeal will be dismissed, Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the settlement will allow the state’s lawyers to focus on defending the state statute. The attorney general’s office has appealed Robinson’s ruling. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 18.

“The bottom line is that a state statute, which was duly enacted by large bipartisan majorities in the Kansas Legislature, has been declared invalid by a federal court,” Schmidt said. “As long as the Legislature leaves that law on the books, we think the state’s authority to enact the statute requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote deserves a full and vigorous legal defense.”

Related stories from Wichita Eagle