Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas division of a federal civil rights commission will investigate whether voter identification laws have affected turnout around the state.
The Kansas Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission voted Tuesday to hold hearings to determine if turnout in some communities has been suppressed, KCUR-TV reported. The committee also agreed to ask Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who strongly advocated for the laws, to testify at its hearings, which are expected to take place early next year.
"My office would be happy to appear before the Kansas advisory committee and point out the success of the Kansas photo ID law," Kobach told The Associated Press late Wednesday afternoon.
Committee chairwoman Elizabeth Kronk said there is concern that the law "disproportionately impacts certain age groups and certain racial categorizations."
"It is fair to say the committee has acknowledged this is an area of controversy," said Kronk, who is also a law professor at the University of Kansas.
The state committee can recommend that the full U.S. Civil Rights Commission in Washington take up the case.
The General Accounting Office released a report in October 2014 comparing election turnout in Kansas and Tennessee, states that tightened voter ID requirements between the 2008 and 2012 elections, to voting in four states that didn't change identification requirements. Reductions in voter turnout were about 2 percent greater in Kansas and from 2 percent to 3 percent steeper in Tennessee than they were in the other states examined, the report showed.
Kobach, a Republican, criticized the GAO's methodology at that time, saying there was no statewide office up for grabs in Kansas in 2012 so turnout would naturally be down.
"The GAO study was deeply flawed because it compared apples to oranges," Kobach said Wednesday. "For example, comparing Kansas' participation result to Maine's participation result when the offices up for grabs in the states were radically different. If you compare apples to apples and look at comparable elections, turnout increased after we introduced the photo ID requirement."