States seek rehearing of voter citizenship lawsuit

? Kansas and Arizona have asked a federal appeals court panel to revisit its decision allowing residents of those states to register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship.

The states submitted a petition late Monday asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel to rehear the case, saying they believe the court overlooked certain legal issues when it ruled against them in November.

The appeals court ruled that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand federal election officials help them enforce their state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. The panel overturned a March ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren that required the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to tailor its federal voter registration form for those states to require those proof-of-citizenship documents.

The commission’s spokesman, Bryan Whitener, declined to comment on the states’ request for the rehearing.

In the petition, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the appeals court must address three legal questions before Melgren’s ruling can be reversed: whether the Election Assistance Commission’s decision not to tailor the federal form to Kansas and Arizona’s needs was arbitrary; whether the states have the sole authority to enforce voter qualifications; and whether federal election officials illegally intruded on that authority.

Most new Kansas and Arizona voters use a state voter registration form that requires them to show the citizenship documents. The national form requires only that voters sign a sworn statement saying they are citizens.

Kansas and Arizona contend that their proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements protect the integrity of their elections by preventing unqualified voters from casting ballots.

Critics say in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and that such laws are really meant to disenfranchise voter groups that tend to support Democrats. They say the added documentation burdens result in a decrease in the number of eligible voters, undermining the purpose of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.