League of Women Voters joins federal suit challenging Kobach on citizenship law
Topeka ? The League of Women Voters of Kansas has joined a federal class action lawsuit that seeks to overturn a state law requiring voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register.
Meanwhile, the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation, which is also involved in the case, filed a brief this week arguing that a large number of non-citizens have, in fact, been registered to vote and cast ballots in other states.
The case, Fish vs. Kobach, was filed in November by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of all individuals who have attempted unsuccessfully to register since the state’s citizenship requirement took effect in 2013.
In that time, according to the plaintiffs, an estimated 22,814 Kansans either had their registrations placed “in suspense” or had been purged from the voting lists altogether for failing to provide the required proof of U.S. citizenship.
The suit also names Kansas Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan as a defendant, alleging that the Division of Vehicles requires people to show proof of citizenship in order to register when they renew their drivers licenses, which the plaintiffs say violates the National Voter Registration Act, or “Motor-Voter” law.
In a document filed with the court March 17, the League of Women Voters claims that the citizenship law has interfered with its core mission of conducting voter registration drives and educational programs, forcing it to divert resources toward contacting thousands of voters on the suspense list to help them comply with the citizenship law.
“Our League members have volunteered many hours trying to reach citizens on the suspense list, and we are so proud of these efforts,” League president Marge Ahrens said in a statement Wednesday. “However, if the Secretary of State would comply with federal law, we could spend those hours registering and educating many more voters.”
On Tuesday, though, the Public Interest Legal Foundation submitted a friend of the court brief arguing that without a proof-of-citizenship law, non-citizens can easily register to vote and cast ballots in U.S. elections.
Attached to that brief were photocopies of a dozen voter registration cards, all from Texas, which does not have a proof of citizenship law but merely asks people to check a box, yes or no, to indicate whether they are a U.S. citizen.
All of the cards are from people who either checked “no,” or checked both boxes, or left both boxes blank. And yet, all of the applicants were eventually registered and assigned a voter identification number.
“Kansas is taking the lead nationwide to prevent this criminal activity by ensuring that only American citizens vote in Kansas elections,” the organization stated in its brief.
A hearing on the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction is set for Thursday, April 14, in federal court in Kansas City, Kan. The injunction would immediately block enforcement of the law which says neither the Secretary of State nor any county election officer may register a person to vote unless that person has shown proof of U.S. citizenship.
If granted, that would enable people to register without showing proof of citizenship in time for the upcoming August primary and November general elections.
However, if the motion is denied, that would mean the law will likely stay in effect through the 2016 elections because a trial in the case is currently scheduled for May 2017.
The case of Fish vs. Kobach is one of three federal lawsuits now pending that involve the state’s proof of citizenship law. Another, which is also pending in federal court in Kansas City, seeks to overturn the entire law as unconstitutional. It also seeks to block the Secretary of State’s office from enforcing a new regulation requiring county election officers to cancel incomplete applications after 90 days.
A trial in that case is currently scheduled for March 2017
The third suit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., seeks to block a recent decision by Brian Newby, the executive director of the federal Election Assistance Commission, to provide Kansas and two other states with amended federal voter registration forms that also require proof of citizenship.
A trial in that case has not yet been scheduled.