The American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) recently filed suit in federal court against a Kansas law requiring residents to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. This law makes Kansas one of only four states requiring this proof. However, since Georgia and Alabama have yet to implement their laws, only Arizona and Kansas currently restrict voter registration in such a way.
The A.C.L.U. argues the Kansas law is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which only requires registrants to swear they are citizens when they get a driver’s license, under threat of perjury.
The Kansas law’s main proponent, Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, asserted that “The state has every right to verify that the person is eligible to vote before completing the person’s registration.” Kobach also contributed to Arizona’s controversial law in 2010, which allowed law enforcement officers to stop and question the immigration status of people they believed to have entered illegally.
Under the 2013 Kansas law, the state could still accept voter registration applications, but they would be held “in suspense” until proof of citizenship was provided. This reasoning was distinguished from the Arizona law which was struck down by the Supreme Court since it would reject the applications forthright if not accompanied by proof of citizenship.
The A.C.L.U also brought a state suit against Kansas for its two-tiered voting system which allows residents to vote in federal elections without proof of citizenship but not in state races. Arizona and Kansas had jointly defended this voting system in federal court, but while the case proceeds, the states are still allowed to implement the law.
Since the 2013 law took effect in Kansas, more than thirty-five thousand registrations have been in suspense, approximately 14 percent of the registrations filed during that period.