WICHITA, Kan. -- The Kansas Secretary of State made the case in federal court Tuesday for forcing federal elections officials to require proof-of-citizenship documentation from Kansas and Arizona voters who use a federal registration form.
Kobach said after Tuesday's hearing in U.S. District Court that Kansas and Arizona are just trying to prevent voter fraud. He said the nation has a long history of voter fraud.
"In fact, Kansas has perhaps the greatest history of voter fraud," Kobach said.
It's a history Kobach said goes all the way back to the state's founding, when Missouri residents crossed the state border to vote for pro-slavery politicians.
"It wasn't until voter fraud could be stopped that Kansas could enter the union as a free state," Kobach said. "I think many people are not aware of that history."
Kobach argued on behalf of Kansas and Arizona in a federal lawsuit seeking to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to require proof-of-citizenship from those registering to vote for the first time in either state.
"We decided in Kansas that we can take some common sense steps to make it harder to cheat, but still easy to vote," he said. "That's what we've done."
Critics, however, call the new requirements voter suppression. They pointed out there are more than 12,000 Kansans whose voting privileges are suspended until they can provide documentation that proves they are U.S. citizens.
"In 2012, Kansas experienced a record-low voter turnout and became the fourth in the nation for the lowest number of black participation," said Duwan Wash, a member of Kansas People's Action, who spoke during a rally opposing the policies Tuesday morning. "This is unacceptable."
Jennifer Bruey, another Kansas People's Action member, said the requirements also make it difficult for some women to register to vote.
"It's affecting women that have legally changed their name that now have to show a paper trail of all their legal name changes in order to meet the proof-of-citizenship burden," she said.
Kobach argued the proof-of-citizenship requirement is not burdensome.
"They can complete their voter registration tonight from their couch," he said. "Our law allows them to text in a copy -- a photo -- of their birth certificate."
Kobach has said if the push to require proof-of-citizenship on the federal form is unsuccessful, he will establish a two-tier registration system in Kansas. Voters who register using the state forms that require registrants to prove their citizenship would be allowed to vote in all elections. Those who register using the federal form would be allowed to only vote in elections for federal offices.