Court of Appeals rules proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement unconstitutional


The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision Wednesday upholding a lower court ruling that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement was unconstitutional and violated motor-voter law.

The appellate judges said the Kansas statute violated the National Voter Registration Act and ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union. The judges said the significant burden imposed on voters wasn’t justified by “incredibly slight evidence that Kansas’ interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters is under threat.”

The decision also said the byzantine system Kansas put in place to manage appeals by potential voters added rather than subtracted from burdensomeness of the law.

Gov. Laura Kelly said the state of Kansas should cease the legal campaign to cling to an unconstitutional intrusion into the voting process.

“I do think the state should drop its appeal, but that decision is not up to me. I think what it tells us is what I’ve thought for a long time. We ought to be doing everything we can to encourage voting,“ she said.

In 2018, a U.S. District Court judge in Kansas issued a permanent injunction against the state law mandating documentary proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, to register to vote. Enforcement of that state mandate by Kobach prevented more than 30,000 Kansans from registering to vote.

“This law disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans, denying them the most fundamental right in our democracy,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We are gratified the court struck it down.”

He urged Scott Schwab, elected Kansas secretary of state in November 2018, to cease the state’s work to suppress voting, drop a further appeal and “work with us collaboratively in the interests of all Kansas voters.”

Kobach, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate, said on Twitter that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would likely result in reversal of the decision. Kobach led the state’s defense team at trial in U.S. District Court.

Tim Carpenter, The Topeka Capital-Journal

Copyright Topeka Capital Journal Apr 30, 2020

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