- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A court ruling in Kansas could lead to Alabama enforcing part of its immigration law that has never been used.

The 2011 law required people registering to vote in Alabama for the first time to present evidence of citizenship. Such proof could include a birth certificate, passport, driver’s license or a non-driver ID card issued by Alabama or another state that requires proof of residency to issue the license.

Alabama’s chief election official, Republican Secretary of State Jim Bennett, said the requirement was not put into effect because of litigation over similar requirements in Kansas and Arizona.

A federal judge in Wichita, Kan., ruled last week that federal officials must help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship. District Judge Eric Melgren ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to immediately modify a national voter registration form to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents about their states’ proof-of-citizenship requirements.

One of the authors of Alabama’s immigration law, Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, said he was glad to see the decision. “It’s a good ruling. We must ensure citizens are the only ones who votes if we are to have honest elections,” Beason said.

Bennett said he had been cautiously optimistic that Kansas and Arizona would prevail. He said no decision has been made yet about what to do in Alabama, and that will depend, in part, on whether the Kansas ruling is appealed.

“It would seem that Alabama would have the same strong footing regarding this issue in our state,” Bennett said.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who consulted with Alabama legislators on the state’s 2011 immigration law, said last week he believes the ruling “has paved the way for all states to enact proof-of-citizenship requirements.”

One of the attorneys who successfully challenged parts of Alabama’s immigration law, Sam Brooke of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, said the proof-of-citizenship part was not challenged because the state wasn’t trying to enforce it. He said the wise approach would be for the state to continue to keep that portion of the immigration law on hold while an anticipated appeal is pursued in the Kansas and Arizona case.

If Alabama does proceed, a new suit could be file challenging the law as a hindrance to voting, he said.

Until Alabama tries to enforce the proof-of-citizenship requirement, people can register to vote by giving their Alabama driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Alabama’s next election is the primary election on June 3, which will feature contests ranging from governor to county offices.

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