Kansas’ Proof of Citizenship Law Challenged in Court

By: - March 8, 2018 12:00 am

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, is defending the state’s law that requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/dpa/Associated Press

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is in court this week defending a state law that requires people to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate has long been a proponent of requiring such identification in order to vote, but many of his efforts have been struck down in previous cases.

Now, in an unusual move, he’s defending the law himself rather than relying on the state’s attorney general, arguing that voters who attempted to register at the department of motor vehicles should not be added to rolls for state elections until they provide proof of citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate.

Registration systems requiring such proof have been getting renewed attention under the Trump administration. But critics say they conflict with federal registration forms that allow people to register without proof of citizenship, creating a complex registration system in which voters may be stopped from casting a ballot in elections in which they are qualified to vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the plaintiffs in court.

“Enforcing this law is like taking a bazooka to a fly and the collateral damage in this case has been thousands of voters,” ACLU attorney Dale Ho said in court, according to the Wichita Eagle.

Kobach claims the law has helped identify 129 noncitizens. Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who served as an expert witness for the ACLU, estimated the law affected more than 35,000 Kansans, many of them first-time voters.  

Kobach argued that some of the plaintiffs suing over the law had not been unduly burdened and instead have not made an effort to provide the documents.

The trial is expected to last several days.

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Rebecca Beitsch

Rebecca Beitsch writes about energy and the environment for Stateline. She covered state government in Missouri and North Dakota, writing about politics and policy for NewsRadio KMOX, the Columbia Missourian and the Bismarck Tribune.