By Kansas City Star, Oct. 18
Kansas’ new proof-of-citizenship requirement has suspended the voting privileges of nearly 20,000 Kansans. It is causing headaches in multiple state offices, and there is a good chance it will be overturned in court.
So how does Secretary of State Kris Kobach propose to handle this debacle? By moving to a system even more discriminatory and cumbersome.
Kobach wants to create a framework whereby some Kansans would be eligible to vote in congressional and presidential races but not for state or local candidates. Other Kansans could vote for all candidates and issues on the ballot.
And some people wouldn’t be able to vote at all, even if they thought they had registered properly.
The problem begins with a new law requiring Kansans to submit proof of lawful presence, like a birth certificate or passport, when registering to vote. The only other state with such severe requirements is Arizona.
The Kansas law clashes with the federal “motor voter” law, which says citizens must be offered the opportunity to register to vote at vehicle registration offices. Ruling in a case brought against Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court said this summer that states can’t require more documentation for voting than they do for driver’s license applications or renewals.
In Kansas, citizens don’t need proof of citizenship to renew their driver’s licenses. If they register to vote at the same time, they don’t necessarily have proof of citizenship documents with them. These are the would-be voters whose registrations are in “suspended” status because they are transmitted to election offices without the documentation required by Kansas law.
Kobach has sued the U.S. Election Assistance Coalition, seeking to adopt the terms of the Kansas proof of lawful presence law for Kansas elections. His contingency plan is to allow newly registered voters who have complied with federal registration requirements — but not with the more stringent state law — to vote only in federal elections.
Those voters would have to fill out a federal form. If they use a Kansas voter registration form but don’t provide proof of U.S. citizenship, they can’t vote at all.
If this sounds like a mess, it is. It’s also a stain on Kansas, harkening back to post-Civil War days in the South when black citizens sometimes had to register multiple times and meet stiffer requirements to vote in state elections than the federal government required.
The solution to this tangled problem is beautifully simple. There is no evidence that non-citizen voting is a problem in Kansas. The Legislature should repeal the law requiring proof of citizenship — or risk a fiasco in the 2014 elections.