Archive for Friday, July 29, 2016

Judge: Kansas must count disputed votes; ‘There is no right more precious to a free country’

At left, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens and takes note as Shawnee County, Kan., District Judge Larry Hendricks declares that the state must count potentially thousands of votes from people who registered without providing documentation of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka. At right, Hendricks makes a comment during the hearing.

At left, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens and takes note as Shawnee County, Kan., District Judge Larry Hendricks declares that the state must count potentially thousands of votes from people who registered without providing documentation of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka. At right, Hendricks makes a comment during the hearing.

July 29, 2016, 4:33 p.m. Updated July 29, 2016, 5:54 p.m.

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— A Shawnee County judge issued an order late Friday blocking a new temporary regulation enacted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach that would have limited some voters to casting ballots only in federal races.

Judge Larry D. Hendricks' decision means an estimated 17,500 people who registered at their motor vehicle office and did not provide documentary proof of U.S. citizenship will be allowed to vote in all races on the Aug. 2 primary ballot, not just federal races.

“It’s beyond dispute that voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitution,” Hendricks said from the bench. “There is no right more precious to a free country.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens and takes note as a judge declares in Shawnee County District Court that the state must count potentially thousands of votes from people who registered without providing documentation of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka. Kobach had directed local election officials to count only their votes in federal races, not state and local ones.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens and takes note as a judge declares in Shawnee County District Court that the state must count potentially thousands of votes from people who registered without providing documentation of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka. Kobach had directed local election officials to count only their votes in federal races, not state and local ones.

The ruling deals a major blow, at least for now, to Kansas’ controversial proof-of-citizenship law because, if it stands after additional hearings later this year, it will mean anyone can register to vote without showing proof of citizenship just by doing so at a motor vehicle office where federal law says people only need to attest, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens.

Kobach himself said during oral arguments that, “If the injunction is granted, it renders the proof of citizenship law nugatory,” meaning it would no longer have any force.

But the temporary injunction affects only the Aug. 2 primary, an election in which some people have already cast ballots, including some of the voters who were told they were only eligible to vote in federal races.

Hendricks said he will hold additional hearings in September to decide whether the order should also apply to the Nov. 8 general elections.

Kobach’s office proposed the new rule earlier this month in response to ruling by a federal court in Kansas City, Kan., which said the proof-of-citizenship law likely violates the federal National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor voter” law.

In May, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said the state must register voters who applied when they obtained or renewed their driver’s licenses and allow them to vote, at least in federal races. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver later refused to grant a stay of that order while it’s being appealed.

Kobach had argued that the regulation was the only reasonable way to comply with Robinson’s order while at the same time keeping the state’s law intact and preventing non-U.S. citizens from voting in Kansas elections.

Shawnee County, Kan., District Judge Larry Hendricks makes a comment during a hearing on requiring the state to count potentially thousands of votes in state and local elections from people who've registered without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka. Hendricks has ruled that the state is required to count all their votes.

Shawnee County, Kan., District Judge Larry Hendricks makes a comment during a hearing on requiring the state to count potentially thousands of votes in state and local elections from people who've registered without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka. Hendricks has ruled that the state is required to count all their votes.

Kobach said his office knows of at least 25 noncitizens who were on the voter rolls in Sedgwick County. Those people were identified when they, or someone in their family, applied to register at their naturalization ceremonies. Based on that number, Kobach estimated there may be as many as 100 noncitizens in Kansas who are currently registered to vote.

But attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, who filed the case as a class action lawsuit, said that number “pales in comparison” to the 17,500 people, virtually all of whom presumably are citizens, who would be denied the right to cast full ballots under Kobach’s regulation.

They argued that Kobach had no authority under any Kansas statute to establish a “dual” registration system in which some voters may vote only in federal races.

That was based on another Shawnee County court decision in February in which Judge Franklin Theis said Kobach had no authority to only partially count the ballots of voters who registered using a federal mail-in form. But Theis did not issue an order in connection with his decision, in part because Kobach’s office, on its own initiative, had located Kansas birth certificates for the plaintiffs in the case and registered them.

They also argued the regulation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Kansas Constitution because it sets up two classes of voters who are treated differently solely on the basis of the method they used to register.

Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Projects, questions a witness during a court hearing on whether Kansas must count potentially thousands of votes in state and local races from people who've registered without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka.

Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Projects, questions a witness during a court hearing on whether Kansas must count potentially thousands of votes in state and local races from people who've registered without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka.

The ACLU filed the case July 19, one week after Kobach’s regulation was approved by the state’s Rules and Regulations Board.

In a highly unusual move, Judge Hendricks issued his decision orally from the bench only about 30 minutes after listening to two hours of oral arguments and testimony.

“This was something that was done in a very rapid manner,” Hendricks said. “It’s unfortunate that we are there, but that’s where we are.”

Hendricks said he had to rule quickly in order to give county election officers time to instruct poll workers how to handle ballots from those individuals who still are not fully registered.

Bryan Caskey, who heads the Division of Elections in the secretary of state’s office, said he believes voters affected by the decision still will have to cast provisional ballots, which are set aside on election night and not counted until the county’s Board of Canvassers meets the following week. But he said those boards will be instructed to count all of the votes those people cast, not just those for federal races.

Hendricks acknowledged that some of the affected voters have already cast advance ballots, and it’s unknown whether they complied with instructions they were given at the time only to mark their ballot for federal offices.

“There is nothing this court can do for those who complied with the instructions to vote only in federal races, if in fact they complied with those instructions,” Hendricks said. “But those who vote on August 2 are within my ability to help. If they can’t vote due to my finding (upholding) a dual registration system, they will never be able to recast their vote.”

He said the plaintiffs in the case met all five legal criteria for granting a temporary injunction: that they are likely to prevail at trial on the merits of the case; that they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were not granted; that there would be no other legal remedies available to the plaintiffs; that the harm to the plaintiffs outweighs whatever harm may be suffered by the other party if the injunction were granted; and that the injunction is not contrary to the public interest.

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 4 months ago

Hot Dog!!! There is finally a halt in the crusade against voters created by our globe trotting "Secretary of State (which state???).

This fascist has been traveling the country attempting to prevent voters who just might not want to vote for Republicans and as I understand it this practice has been stopped in other states by the courts.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 4 months ago

I have just used the "suggest removal" for this blatant commercial in the Comments column.

Bob Smith 1 year, 4 months ago

Lousy rotten spammers who should be sealed in metal drums and thrown into a river.

Jerome Bradley 1 year, 4 months ago

These spam bots are just that, a robot, not human, they won't respond and not even controlled by anyone.

Richard Crank 1 year, 4 months ago

Any experts who can tell us about the relationship (or lack of one) of this decision and the Federal Appeals Court striking down the North Carolina voter ID law as discriminatory?

Bob Forer 1 year, 4 months ago

“There is no right more precious to a free country.”

damn activist judges (turn on your sarcasm meter)

screw you, Kobach. .

John McCoy 1 year, 4 months ago

How much of taxpayers' money has Kobach spent suing the government over his cockamamie, anti-Constitution, lunatic efforts to deprive Kansans of the right to vote.

MerriAnnie Smith 1 year, 4 months ago

Happy to see I agree with everyone above so far.

I can read his mind while he sits there looking down at his paper. He's thinking, "Okay, then I'll just find a way to rig the voting machines so it can't be tracked... again."

But this story isn't over yet. The judge will come back in September to tell us the final verdict for the November election. This decision just gets us through the primaries. And that, my friends, really doesn't get us much. If, as Kobach seems to think, most of them are Democratic voters, then for Kansas we have to remember that up to now there has been few Democratic candidates in our elections. This decision just says those 17,500 can, if they are Democrats, choose between two different Democrats on the Democratic ballot for the primary. We likely have few positions with 2 Democrats vying for the spot.

The big decision here comes in September, and it may not include that he has to keep the names on for this November election. Kobach has promised to take higher in the courts. This judge's decision in September may not be to force Koback to count those votes in November. I'd like to believe he will force Kobach to count those votes in November too, but he hasn't given any clue yet of that.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 4 months ago

Fortunately, Ms. Smith, the current trend in the federal appeals courts is that voter ID laws, such as that here, are unconstitutional. Texas, South Carolina, and the states represented by the appeals courts representing them, have been told, in no uncertain terms, that they can not suppress voting using the ID excuse. Guilty before being proven innocent just doesn't fly with the courts.

Clara Westphal 1 year, 4 months ago

The first person interviewed about this story on tv this morning couldn't speak English. I thought that was a requirement for citizenship.

Bob Reinsch 1 year, 4 months ago

The requirements are here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_nationality_law. Think about a person who has had a stroke and lost the ability to speak, or the person who knows sign language. Would you deny them citizenship because of their inability to speak English?

Michael Birch 1 year, 4 months ago

Like it or not Kobach is probably going to be the next governor of Kansas!

Tony Peterson 1 year, 4 months ago

Possible at one time but highly unlikely now. With Browncrack's approval rating down to 15% that's a political black eye for everyone in the Executive branch of Kansas government. His legal rulings have also been shot down so many times by challenges in court he doesn't have a track record of "accomplishments" to claim.

Kendall Simmons 1 year, 4 months ago

I sure hope you're right, Tony. But we've got to have someone GOOD running against him.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 4 months ago

Wouldn't even have to be a good candidate running against him, just someone BETTER. Kobach has a huge negative public opinion problem he'd have to overcome first.

Elwin Mckenzie 1 year, 4 months ago

If Kobach becomes governor, Kansas is in real trouble. Brownback is a rookie in ultra right wing politics compared to him.

Joseph Comfort 1 year, 4 months ago

If Kobach is elcted Governor of Kansas, Kansas voters will get exactly what they deserve! I wonder, since Kansas is so "anti-federalist" who arre they going to call to bail them out?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 4 months ago

But then they will try and tell you that they are the party of Lincoln, who was a federalist. They don't even know what they are saying.

Phillip Chappuie 1 year, 4 months ago

Given the current climate and depending on how the weather is next year, Paul Davis needs to be getting his machine re-tooled and oiled up for action. It will be hard for Kobach to win Governor after he has been part of the group that has lead us to this ruination. Kris is tanking his career staying in Kansas. He needs to go with the money to lobbyist land in the east. There, his type of hate is bought and sold like commodities.

Bob Summers 1 year, 4 months ago

Kobach would be the greatest Governor Kansas has had since Brownback.

Jim Slade 1 year, 4 months ago

Correct. Satan himself would be a better governor than Brownback. A 3 legged dog with narcolepsy would be a better governor than Brownback.

Bob Smith 1 year, 4 months ago

It behooves the Democrats to not nominate such a rubbish candidate for governor next time around.

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