Voter group blasts proof-of-citizenship ruling

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- A federal judge said Wednesday that Kansas and Arizona should be able to require voters to prove they are U.S. citizens.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach called U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren's ruling a victory, but voter's rights groups said the ruling means voters lose.

Wednesday's ruling said the U.S. Election Assistance commission has to amend federal voter registration forms used by Kansas and Arizona to reflect those states' requirements that people registering to vote for the first time prove they are citizens.

Critics of each state's law said the new requirements are creating delays for eligible voters.

"It's a mess," said Louis Goseland, campaign director for Kansas Peoples' Action.

The group has been vocal in its criticism of requirements that first-time voters provide a birth certificate or passport to prove their citizenship. Kansas Peoples' Action said the requirements have suspended the voting rights of more than 10,000 eligible Kansas voters.

"The number-one reason we've encountered as to how people were getting suspended were just administrative blunders," Goseland said. "Kansas is not in a position to impose this kind of stringent restriction."

Secretary of State Kris Kobach said the requirements are necessary to prevent voter fraud. He called Wednesday's ruling a victory for Kansas and Arizona.

"It's a victory, not only for our two states, but it is a victory for all 50 states," Kobach said. "This decision reaffirms the right of the states to control the qualifications of our electors and to enforce those qualifications for electors."

Goseland said there is no victory in the ruling, but Kansas voters will lose.

"If we don't see a solution come through the legislature by the end of this session, what we're faced with are 10,000 or more Kansans who will not have the right to vote in November," he said.

Goseland hopes lawmakers take those concerns seriously. He also blasted Kobach, saying the Secretary of State is disenfranchising voters.

"It's also my hope that our state's chief election officer starts focusing on what his job really is, which is to increase the franchise rather than trying to celebrate so-called victories when he is able to legitimize cutting tens of thousands of people out."

The ruling can be appealed through the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The Election Assistance Commission has not indicated whether it will appeal the ruling.

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