- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Thousands of wanna-be Kansas voters who thought they might not be able to cast ballots for president and other federal officials this year are now eligible to vote in them - but not in state or local races.

It’s part of the latest fallout from lawsuits surrounding the state law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship - such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers - when they register. Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is defending the law against multiple legal challenges.

Supporters of the law say it’s important to make sure those who aren’t U.S. citizens don’t vote. Opponents say non-citizens aren’t voting in significant numbers and the real result is making it harder for the poor, the young and the elderly - those who might have trouble getting documents - to vote.

There are so many legal challenges in play that it’s hard to keep track of who can vote and under what circumstances. Here are some answers:


A: Kansan residents who did not provided proof of citizenship when they registered to vote can cast ballots only in the federal races for president, U.S. Senate and House - but only if they registered to vote at motor vehicle offices. That includes voters whose “motor-voter applications” were cancelled after 90 days because they didn’t circle back and provide the proof of citizenship after initially turning in applications.

Kobach is trying to keep everybody who doesn’t provide documents proving their U.S. citizenship out of the voting booth, but a federal judge says that violates the National Voter Registration Law, commonly called the “motor-voter law,” because Congress designed it to encourage voter participation by making it easy to register when people get their driver’s licenses.

The federal courts ordered Kobach to let these “motor-voter” voters whose registrations were cancelled or suspended to cast ballots in the upcoming federal elections while his appeal plays out. A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in August, but it is not likely to rule before the elections.


A: People who have not provided such citizenship documents and registered to vote anywhere other than a motor vehicle office will still not be allowed to cast ballots. Their applications will still be suspended and then cancelled after 90 days if they don’t go back with documentation.


A: Kansas had a similar two-tier election system during the 2014 elections for voters who registered to vote with a simple federal form that at the time only required people to attest under penalty of perjury they were U.S. citizens. Those voters also could only vote in federal races during that election.

Kobach sued the U.S. Election Assistance Commission seeking to force it to change the national form so it requires proof-of-citizenship documents. Kobach lost.

Then earlier this year federal agency’s new executive director - Brian Newby, a former Kansas election commissioner that Kobach had once appointed to a state post- decided shortly after he was hired to unilaterally change the federal registration form to now require citizenship documentation from residents of Kansas, Alabama and Georgia.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., is expected to rule any day on a request from voting rights advocates who sued to block Newby’s action. Depending on how the court rules that decision could also affect whether people who registered with the national form without the citizenship documents will be able to vote at least in the federal races.

A Shawnee County judge this week reiterated his earlier ruling that Kobach has no legal right to bar people from casting ballots in local and state elections because they registered to vote using a federal form that did not require proof of citizenship. The judge had ruled in January that the right to vote under state law is not tied to the method of registration. That ruling is likely to be appealed, and it is uncertain whether it will affect the upcoming elections.


A: Kansas has estimated the motor-voter ruling will affect as many as 50,000 voters who register at motor vehicle offices before the November elections without providing proof of citizenship. They will only be allowed cast ballots in the federal races for president, U.S. Senate and House.

The proof-of citizenship requirement has mostly affected Kansas’ younger citizens, many of whom are registering to vote for the first time in their lives. More than 58 percent of those voters who registered at motor vehicle offices without providing citizenship paperwork are between 18 and 29 years old.

Kansas has more than 1.72 million registered voters, and about 44 percent of people who registered in the past decade did so at motor vehicle offices. Less than 1 percent of Kansas voters register using the federal form.

The Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship became effective in January 2013.

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