- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Requiring would-be voters to prove their citizenship when they try to register at motor vehicle bureaus is a burden on their right to vote, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, striking down Kansas’s law.

Judge Julie A. Robinson said only a few noncitizens have broken the rules to vote in Kansas in recent years, and that doesn’t outweigh the hurdles placed in the way of thousands of legal voters who are struggling to prove their citizenship.

States instead should rely on would-be voters’ word that they are citizens, Judge Robinson said.

“The record in this case suggests that there is a less burdensome way for the state to assess whether applicants meet the citizenship eligibility requirement; namely, by asking applicants to complete an attestation of citizenship under penalty of perjury,” she wrote in a decision that’s likely to reverberate across the country at a time when voting rights is a hot topic.

Under the motor-voter law, officially known as the National Voter Registration Act, states are required to offer the chance to register to vote at their motor vehicle bureaus — but they are still allowed to enforce their own standards for voting, including citizenship requirements.

However, the federal elections bureau that oversees motor-voter had refused to allow states to demand proof of citizenship, leading to a dispute with states that insist on that proof before they allow anyone to be put on their rolls.


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Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach said he’ll seek an emergency appeal, and said Judge Robinson’s ruling conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court rulings that signal states are allowed to impose their own requirements on those who try to register under motor-voter.

“Her opinion stretches the meaning of the NVRA beyond recognition. It’s inconceivable that Congress intended to create a special path of registration at the DMV so that people who use the DMV don’t need to prove citizenship,” Mr. Kobach said.

Kansas had kept thousands of people off the rolls who applied through motor-voter but who failed to prove their citizenship.

Judge Robinson ordered Mr. Kobach to go back and reinstate them — but she stayed her ruling until the end of the month to give the state a chance to appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which had fought Mr. Kobach in court, praised the decision.

“This ruling lifts the barrier that the state illegally imposed on Kansans who were trying to register to vote. It means thousands of people who could have been sidelined during the upcoming primary and general election will be able to participate,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project.


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