Kansas elections official tells counties to comply with court ruling

photo by: Associated Press

Ruth Meier, from Silver Lake, Kan, votes at the Prairie Home Cemetery building, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

WICHITA — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office issued written instructions Wednesday to county elections officials telling them to immediately take steps to implement a federal court ruling that struck down the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration law.

The state’s two-page directive instructs election officials not to ask for citizenship documentation of any voter registration applicant. If an applicant voluntarily provides it, they were instructed to scan the document and keep it with the registration record where it would be used only for tracking purposes.

For those residents whose registration record was previously suspended or cancelled due to lack of proof of citizenship, their status would be changed to active and they would receive a notice informing them of their status and the polling place for the upcoming primary election.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued a 118-page ruling at nearly 5 p.m. Monday finding that the Kansas law violated the constitutional right to vote. Elections Director Bryan Caskey said he held a conference call at 11 a.m. the following morning with the county officials.

“The first thing that I said was we are going to comply with the entirety of the court’s ruling. However, it is going to take a little bit to issue written instructions. Don’t change anything until we issue our written instructions so you know exactly what to change,” Caskey said.

The instructions say the state is appealing the ruling, and that if an appeal is successful any person who has not provided evidence of citizenship may need to have their status reviewed.

Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said the guidance that Kobach’s office sent out have some “compliance problems” with Robinson’s ruling, but they do not appear to be emergency issues and can be addressed with the court via a status report in a few weeks.

Kobach, a conservative Republican seeking his party’s nomination for governor, was vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded commission on election fraud.

The court in its ruling noted Kobach’s “well-documented history” of avoiding its orders and providing “confusing notices and information” on the state’s website. Robinson ordered the parties to file a joint status report 30 days before the Kansas primary election to verify compliance with her orders and determine whether any additional steps may be necessary so “effective relief for covered voters is not denied or otherwise undermined” by Kobach.

Douglas County clerk makes changes

J-W Staff Report

In the wake of the federal court ruling, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew has removed from voter registration materials all references to having to prove citizenship.

Shew said that after reading Judge Julie Robinson’s decision, he ordered changes to bring the clerk’s office into compliance with her ruling.

“It was pretty clear to me, the judge went a little further in her ruling than many expected,” he said. “She clearly said the entire state law was unconstitutional. We are not going to do anything on our part to enforce an unconstitutional law.”

All references to the need to provide proof of citizenship for voter registration have been removed from the clerk’s website and other registration materials.

Shew said his office was in the process of reviewing records related to people who were denied voting rights because of the proof-of-citizenship requirement, and he said his office would reach out to them.


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