Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has become a national figure by advising other states on how to implement anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures, has come up with a new creative way to make it harder for Kansans to vote: barring those who register to vote with a federal form from casting ballots in state elections.
Back in June, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona elections law that required those registering to vote to show proof of citizenship beyond what is required by federal voter registration forms. In Kansas, Kobach has been struggling to deal with the implementation of a similar proof-of-citizenship law, which has left the voting status of at least 12,000 Kansans in limbo.
These voters, many of whom registered with the federal “motor voter” form at the DMV, were supposed to have their citizenship information automatically updated, a process that was delayed by a computer glitch. Kobach then suggested that these 12,000 voters be forced to cast provisional ballots – a suggestion that the state elections board rejected.
Now, the Lawrence Journal-World reports, Kobach has a new idea to deal with the problem that he created. The paper reports that Kobach is considering a plan to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona case by creating two classes of voters. Under this plan, those who register with a federal form would be allowed to vote only in federal elections until they produced the state-required citizenship documents. Those who meet the state registration requirements would then be allowed to vote in state-level elections.
In Kansas, a new state law requires proof of citizenship to register to vote.
Kobach, a Republican who pushed for that law, said he is considering a proposed rule change that would allow those who use the federal form to register to vote to be allowed to vote in federal elections, such as presidential and congressional contests. The federal voter registration form does not require proof of citizenship documents, but includes a signed sworn statement that the individual is a U.S. citizen.
But those people would not be allowed to vote in state elections, such as contests for governor, other statewide offices and the Legislature.
Those who register to vote by providing proof of citizenship will be able to vote in both federal and state elections under the proposal.
Voting rights advocates in the state are understandably skeptical:
Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said she would strongly oppose such a plan.
"It won't work," Furtado said. "When we can't handle registrations, the process of applications and processing registrations, how are we going to separate ballots?" she said. "This is creating a problem. Whenever we make things complex, people shun away."
When the elections board rejected his provisional ballots plan, Kobach was taken aback, saying that those who register to vote with the motor voter form aren’t likely to vote anyway, so disenfranchising 12,000 of them wasn’t “a major problem.” That seems to be his justification for the two classes of voter plan as well. According to the World-Journal, “Kobach said few Kansans register to vote using the federal form, so it shouldn't affect too many voters.”