- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants the Legislature to give him authority to bar potentially tens of thousands of people from casting votes in state or local races, a move that comes after federal and state rulings gutted the state’s restrictive proof-of-citizenship voter registration law.

Kobach asked a Senate committee Tuesday for legislation that would give him power to create separate voter registration lists - one for people who can vote in any election and another for only federal races, the Lawrence Journal World reported (https://bit.ly/2k4RXV5 ).

“It’s sort of an interim bill during litigation to keep the integrity of the (proof of citizenship) law while it’s being litigated,” Kobach told the Senate Committee on Ethics, Elections and Local Government.

Democrats plan to introduce measures to repeal the proof-of-citizenship requirement altogether.

Kobach, a conservative Republican, has championed the proof-of-citizenship requirement as an anti-fraud measure that keeps noncitizens from voting, including immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Critics argue it suppresses voter turnout, particularly among young and minority voters, and note few cases of fraud have been discovered.

Federal courts have tentatively told Kansas, pending trial, that it cannot require people who register at motor vehicle offices or with a national voter registration form to provide documents, such a birth certificate or U.S. passport. State courts have ruled Kobach has no authority to throw out votes cast by those people in local and state races.

Kobach is fighting the rulings in at least four separate lawsuits.

“This bill clarifies that for state elections, you have to prove your citizenship under Kansas law in this interim period where the case is in court,” Kobach told the newspaper.

Kobach also downplayed the significance of lost registrations from people who filled out applications on Kobach’s online site and at motor vehicle offices, but whose names never showed up on poll books, voter rolls or even a list of incomplete applications. The problem was first reported by The Associated Press last week in a story about thousands of provisional ballots thrown out in November, mostly because the state had no record that those residents were registered voters.

Kobach said the “the tiny, smaller issue” was a computer glitch that occurred when the server at the division of vehicles went down while someone was registering to vote, giving users confirmation their registration was complete but not actually recording it.

State elections director Brian Caskey said this week he didn’t know how many voters had been affected but described it as “more than a handful and less than several hundred.”

But Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew’s office began tracking cases of voters who claimed to have registered online because there have been a growing number over the past few election cycles.

“It is extremely frustrating as an administrator of an election when you have someone standing there with a receipt saying they’re duly registered, but they’re not showing up in the poll books,” Shew said. “That system’s not working.”


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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