More than 18,000 Kansans whose voter registration applications have been stuck in limbo should be registered to vote in time for the November election.
On June 10th, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an order issued by District Judge Julie Robinson to register Kansan voters for federal elections without proof of U.S. citizenship, which that state - in violation of federal law - had previously required. Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office began registering voters two minutes before the court’s deadline.
Beginning in 2013, Kansas’ law required voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to register. Anyone who failed to do so was ineligible to vote and their registration was considered incomplete.
Kobach claims that the tighter restrictions on voter registration are meant to catch fraudulent voters. Such claims are fraudulent in themselves: Evidence suggests that only 3 non-citizens have voted in Kansas’ federal elections since 1995.
Earlier this year, the court found that Kansas’ proof of citizenship requirement contradicts federal laws regarding voter registration. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 mandates that all “applications for a State driver’s license and any application for driver’s license renewal” must also include the option to register to vote. Applicants must sign an affirmation indicating they are citizens but do not need to show any proof of citizenship. Congress deemed over 25 years ago that an attestation sufficed. This is especially so given many individuals’ lack of access to such documentation.
For the thousands of Kansans -most of whom are under 30- whose registrations have been on hold, the court’s decision comes just in time for the upcoming federal elections. The decision does not have any affect on their ability to vote in state elections.
Secretary Kobach’s insistence on proof of citizenship comes at a time when other states are leading the way in democracy reform and voter enfranchisement. Twenty state legislatures are hearing bills on automatic voter registration this calendar year.
Four states— Oregon, California, Vermont and West Virginia—have already passed automatic voter registration; Connecticut is implementing the reform by MOU and recent Illinois legislation awaits the Governor’s signature.
In light of this progress, it’s increasingly frustrating to see states like Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama, continue to roadblock citizens on their way to the ballot box. But the court got it right here - and we hope and expect others on comparable issues to follow this lead.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections