Topeka — Two legislators will file a bill during the special session next week that they said would fix a law that has jeopardized the voter registrations of approximately 15,000 Kansans.
Noting that there are elections scheduled this fall in Johnson County, state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said today, "Suspended voters will not be able to vote in these upcoming elections without passage of this act. We must protect the right for all people to vote."
In Kansas, approximately 15,000 Kansans cannot currently cast ballots because their voter registrations are in "suspense" because they haven't proved their U.S. citizenship with a birth certificate or other document. The state's proof-of-citizenship requirement became effective Jan.1 .
Faust-Goudeau and state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, plan to introduce the Protection Against Voter Suppression Act, which would add to state law a provision similar to the one in federal law that allows a voter to sign an affidavit stating he or she is a citizen. If the statement were false, the voter would face a jail sentence.
"We want strong integrity in our voting system, but more than 15,000 Kansans not being able to vote is wrong," said Ward.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona proof-of-citizenship requirement similar to the current Kansas law.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who pushed for the proof-of-citizenship requirement, has defended the Kansas law.
Kobach and the secretary of state of Arizona are seeking a court order requiring the United States Election Assistance Commission to modify the federal voter registration form to include those states’ requirements that a person provide proof of citizenship to register to vote.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the proof of citizenship requirement, has notified Kobach that it will file a lawsuit against the state.
The Kansas Legislature is scheduled to start a special session Tuesday to address a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that has sidelined the state law that allows a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years in heinous murder cases.
Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders have said they want to limit the special session to working on the so-called Hard 50 law.
But Ward said legislators should also tackle the voting law during the special session.
"We can and should fix this now, during a special session where we are already proactively fixing another law ruled unconstitutional, and before upcoming elections," he said.