ACLU letter to Kobach ( .PDF )
Topeka The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday notified Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that it will file a lawsuit in 90 days if the state doesn’t address the issue of approximately 14,000 voter registration applications that are in limbo.
“Kansans are simply trying to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This is the most fundamental freedom we have as Americans, yet Secretary of State Kobach is blocking thousands upon thousands of Kansans from their rightful participation in the political process. This is un-American, unconstitutional and must end immediately.”
The dispute is over thousands of voter registration applications in Kansas since January when a new state law took effect that requires new registrations to include proof of U.S. citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport.
The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri alleges that Kansas has failed to register thousands of those applicants due to a faulty computer system. These are people who fully complied with all legal requirements when they applied for driver’s licenses and voter registration, the group said.
In all, approximately 14,000 registrations are in “suspense,” meaning that they are not completed. That total represents about one-third of the voter registrations this year, officials said.
Kansas also has defied a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an Arizona case by continuing to demand documentary proof of citizenship from individuals applying to register with the federal voter registration form, the ACLU said. The federal form does not require documentary proof of citizenship, but instead requires a signed, sworn statement of citizenship.
Kobach, a Republican who pushed for the proof of citizenship law, declined to grant interviews on the ACLU letter.
But in a written statement, Kobach said, “We are reviewing the letter submitted by the ACLU. However, the ACLU and other organizations on the Left have made clear from the start that they oppose proof-of-citizenship requirements for voting and that they will attempt to prevent the State of Kansas from ensuring that only citizens are registered to vote. This letter therefore comes as no surprise.”
Last month, Kobach proposed a rule change that would have allowed people whose registration was in “suspense” to cast a provisional ballot. But that ballot would not be counted unless the necessary proof-of-citizenship documents were provided to election officials prior to the canvassing of the vote after an election.
State officials rejected that proposal, saying that many voters don’t understand what a provisional ballot is.
Kobach has also said he was considering a proposal that would allow those who use the federal form to register to vote to be allowed to vote in federal elections, such as presidential and congressional contests. However, those people would not be allowed to vote in state elections, such as contests for governor, other statewide offices and the Legislature. Voting rights officials have criticized that idea too, saying it would be too confusing.
The ACLU notice letter was sent on behalf of several groups and individuals, including the NAACP Kansas State Conference, the Lawrence and Douglas County League of Women Voters and Equality Kansas Inc., the state’s leading gay rights organization. The 90-day notification before a potential lawsuit could be filed is up Nov. 11.