Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office has said it will not issue a legal opinion on whether the state's proof of citizenship requirement to register to vote is valid now that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in another state.
When the court decision was made in June in an Arizona case, Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, wrote to Schmidt, a Republican, asking for an advisory opinion on whether the Kansas law was invalid.
In a letter back to Hensley, Deputy Attorney General Athena Andaya wrote that because a lawsuit has been threatened challenging the Kansas law, then "the subject of litigation will be resolved by the judiciary."
The proof of citizenship requirement has mushroomed into a major fight between Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who pushed for the law, and voting rights advocates.
Since implementation in January, more than 16,000 would-be voters, including 650 in Douglas County, have had their voter registrations held up. In some areas of the state, elections will be held this fall, and voting rights advocates say they fear that some voters, who are eligible to vote, will be denied their right to vote.
The ACLU, on behalf of several organizations, has notified Kobach that if he doesn't fix the situation, it will file a lawsuit in November. Some have complained that they provided proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, when getting a driver's license, and registering to vote. But they then got a notice saying they would have to provide their birth certificate again at the local election office for the registration to be complete.
But Republican leaders refused to allow efforts by Democrats to change the law during a special legislative session last week.
And 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.
Glenda Overstreet, president of the NAACP Kansas State Conference, has said Kobach was wasting taxpayer money on a “misguided lawsuit.”
Supporters of proof of citizenship requirements say they are needed to prevent voter fraud. But opponents said the requirement creates a hurdle to voting, especially for people who have difficulty or are unable to get the necessary documentation, such as a birth certificate, to prove citizenship.