Three days after Secretary of State Kris Kobach won the strong endorsement of Kansans at the polls, a federal appellate court provided a welcome check on his agenda to restrict voter registration. Unfortunately, that decision isn’t final.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Friday that Kansas and Arizona cannot require people who register to vote by using a federal form to provide citizenship documents, and that the federal Election Assistance Commission need not alter the form to account for the states’ proof-of-citizenship laws. The court also said the states “have not provided substantial evidence of noncitizens registering to vote using the federal form.”
The decision overturned one by Wichita-based federal Judge Eric Melgren, but Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett predicted the case is headed “to the Supreme Court, one way or the other.”
Meanwhile, the appellate ruling leaves in place Kobach’s new two-tiered voting system, under which those Kansans who register using the state form and prove citizenship can vote in all races but those who register with the federal form can only vote in races for Congress and president. Arizona’s similar system was expected to cost populous Maricopa County an estimated $250,000 to accommodate about 800 federal-only voters in the primary and general elections.
If such limitations and costs seem nutty – and they do, because however people register to vote, they should be able to vote up and down the ballot – it will be up to more judges and courts to say so.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman