This January, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis ruled that Kobach doesn’t have the authority to ban those who register with the EAC form from voting in local and state elections.
Meanwhile, Brian Newby, the former Johnson County, Kansas, election commissioner under Kobach, was
appointed executive director of the EAC in November 2015. On Jan. 29, he sent letters to the secretaries of state of Kansas, Georgia and Alabama allowing them to require proof of citizenship for those registering with the EAC form.
After Kobach received Newby’s letter, he asked Theis to reconsider his ruling. However, Theis stood by his decision.
The League of Women Voters
sued Newby in February over the modification of the three states’ EAC forms. On June 29, a U.S. district judge ruled that registrants using those states’ EAC forms must in fact provide proof of citizenship. The league plans to appeal the judge’s decision. Georgia and Alabama are not enforcing any proof of citizenship requirement in this election cycle because they don’t have the time or money to do so, state officials told News21.
Also in February, the ACLU again sued Kobach, about a month after Theis’ original ruling, arguing that the state’s proof of citizenship requirement violates the National Voter Registration Act. It sought an order requiring Kansas to register voters who attempted to register at a department of motor vehicles location without proof of citizenship.
Federal Judge Julie Robinson ordered Kobach to register the voters affected by the proof of citizenship requirement. In response, Kobach filed an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which upheld Robinson’s ruling in June. Kobach registered the voters, but made them eligible only for federal elections.
A temporary Kansas rule entered by Kobach on July 12 ordered election officials to give voters who registered at the DMV but not provided proof of citizenship a provisional ballot. The election officials were instructed to strike the provisional ballot votes for local and state races.
So the ACLU sued Kobach on July 19, again arguing that Kobach had created a two-tiered voter registration system in which voters are split into “separate and unequal classes.”
On July 29, Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks ordered that all registrants who had not provided proof of citizenship be allowed to cast local, state and federal ballots in Kansas’ Aug. 2 primary election. The DMV registrants who had not provided proof of citizenship were still given provisional ballots, but all of their votes for local, state and federal elections were counted, according to Tabitha Lehman, the Sedgwick County election commissioner.
Hendricks will decide Sept. 21 about what should happen in the November election.
“There are so many changes so often,” Johnson, with the Community Operations Recovery Empowerment, said of the frequent judicial rulings. “(Kobach) keeps trying to push this two-tiered thing due to his fear of undocumented immigrants voting … (but) even the documented people are confused now.”
Voters face struggles when registering
Jessica Larson, a 21-year-old University of Kansas student studying journalism, and women, gender and sexuality studies, has attempted to register to vote in Kansas twice. She failed both times.
Larson is from Nebraska, and she has failed to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote because her birth certificate and passport are at her parents’ house. “It’s really hard to get that together,” she said. “It seems like a lot.”
If a person attempts to register to vote in Kansas and doesn’t provide proof of citizenship, photo ID or fulfill other registration requirements, that person is placed on a “suspense list.” After being placed on the list, they have 90 days to finish their registration process. If their registrations aren’t completed after that time, they are purged from the list.
As of July 12, 26,228 people were on the Kansas suspense list, more than 1.5 percent of the state’s registered voters. More than half of the people on the list aren’t affiliated with a political party. More than 57 percent of the people on the list are also millennials, or people born between 1981 and 1998.
Michael Panek, a 21-year-old KU student from Wichita studying athletic training and pre-physical therapy, was on the suspense list as of July 12 because he also did not provide proof of citizenship. His documents are also at his parents’ home.
“If you’re willing to go out and vote, you should be allowed to, even if you’re in this country not as a citizen,” Panek said. “If you’re gonna go out and make that effort, you should be allowed to.”
Critics of the proof of citizenship requirement say it disenfranchises more than it prevents voter fraud. But Bryan Griffin, a 48-year-old registered voter in Sedgwick County, Kansas, said he’s never had trouble with the state’s proof of citizenship requirement. He also said if a person is not responsible enough to carry a photo ID, then that person isn’t responsible enough to vote.
“I don’t even know why this is debated,” he said. “(I’ve) wondered why one did not have to have a form of ID to vote 20-some years before the subject was ever brought up by lawmakers.”
ACLU representative: System a ‘massive mess’
“Kansas has voting laws that are absolutely unique,” said Doug Bonney, the legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Kansas. “No other state has done what Kansas has done, and it has caused a massive mess.”
Yet Kobach told News21 he will continue to push for Kansas and other states to enforce proof of citizenship. “Kansas is doing a service to the rest of the country,” he said, “by not only implementing these laws, not only producing a model for other states to look at, but also fighting the legal battles that the people who dislike photo ID and dislike proof of citizenship, want to fight.”
Source: NBC News