Kansas Brings Back Bill Requiring Voters to Prove US Citizenship
State seeks to resurrect law to tackle rise in voter fraud from illegal immigrants
Kansas is seeking to resurrect a bill making it a legal requirement to prove US citizenship before voting in elections in the state, according to reports.
On Monday, Kansas’s solicitor general called on a federal appeals court to reinstate the state’s law requiring people to prove they are American citizens before registering to vote.
The original law was introduced in a bid to tackle the rise in non-citizens voting in US elections and was in place between 2013 and 2016 but was overturned by a lower court following a push from attorneys for the state and plaintiffs.
During a hearing before a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Salt Lake City in a case with national implications for voting rights, Judge Jerome Holmes pointed to claims that the law kept more than 30,000 people from registering to vote even though nearly all of them were citizens.
State officials, however, say problems with how it was enforced during the three years it was in place are fixable.
Just last year, then Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, went to court to defend voter ID laws.
As the state looks to bring it back, the constitutionality of the blocked Kansas voting law is under scrutiny.
In a case that draws attention again to the efforts of Republicans to enact voter ID laws in an attempt to stem in-person voter fraud, arguments were set to be heard in a federal appeals court on Monday, according to an Associated Press report.
The Kansas voter registration law required documents such as a driver's license, birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization papers to be checked before people would be allowed to even register to vote.
The move would take another step further than 35 other states which already have some form of voter identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
According to AP, in a case with national implications for voting rights, Kansas faces an uphill battle to resurrect the law once championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission.
A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked Kobach in 2016 from fully enforcing the law, calling it “a mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”
The issue is back before the appellate court after U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson struck it down last year and made permanent the earlier injunction.
Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, called out the statute which was aimed at confronting a “nonexistent epidemic of noncitizen voting.”
“Kansas was the tip of the spear of an effort to make it harder for people to register under the guise of protecting elections from a nonexistent epidemic of noncitizen voting,” Ho said.
"Those efforts haven’t stopped as this case illustrates, and I think this case will be closely watched."
More than 30,732 people who could not submit proof of citizenship were unable to register to vote between 2013 and 2016 when the law was in effect before being blocked by Robinson.
The judge found that the law “disproportionately impacted duly qualified registration applicants, while only nominally preventing noncitizen voter registration.”
“Kansas argued in court filings that it has a compelling interest in preventing voter fraud. It contended its proof-of-citizenship requirement is not a significant burden and protects the integrity of elections and the accuracy of voter rolls,” The AP report said.
Kobach, a conservative Republican who backed Trump’s assertion of voter fraud, was the architect behind the strict Kansas voter identification laws.
The Democratic governor of the state, Laura Kelly, is opposed to the legislation but once supported it when she was a state senator.
“The Legislature is free to repeal the statute if it is no longer favored, but as long as the law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote remains on the books, we think it, like other duly enacted state laws, deserves a full and vigorous legal defense,” Kansas’ Republican attorney general, Derek Schmidt, said.
Schmidt, who is defending the legislation as it is being appealed, noted that it had passed in the Legislature by large bipartisan majorities.
While critics are arguing that cases of voter fraud are actually rare and that Republicans are seeking to suppress voter turnout from those in demographics which usually support Democrats, Kansas has seen many convictions for voter fraud since 2015.
But attempts to enforce voting requirements have typically been denounced by the left and the latest move by the state of Kansas to resurrect its proof-of-citizenship requirements had critics crying oppression.