Kansas, Arizona voter identification laws head to federal court

February 12

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (John Hanna/AP)

Supporters of stricter voter identification laws headed to court Tuesday to ask a judge to require the federal government to demand stricter proof of identity documents on voter registration forms.

The lawsuit, spearheaded by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), seeks to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require changes in federal voter registration forms. Voters who use the federal form to register must only sign a statement attesting they are citizens.

But Kansas and Arizona require new voters to show a passport, birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

Under the Arizona law, voters who register using the federal form would not be allowed to vote in local elections, according to an opinion issued by state Attorney General Tom Horne (R) in October. Horne’s decision means voters using the federal form would be eligible to vote in federal elections, but not in state or local elections.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that Arizona could not refuse the national voter registration form. But in his opinion, Horne said that decision applied only to federal elections.

The opinion means Arizona counties will have to print two separate ballots: One set that will allow voters who used the state form to register to vote in federal, state and local elections, and one that will allow voters who used the federal form to register to vote only in federal elections. The two-track system is likely to cost Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest, $250,000 to accommodate the approximately 900 voters who registered using the federal form.

Kansas, Arizona and Georgia appealed to the Election Assistance Commission last year to change the federal form to require proof of citizenship. But the EAC turned the states down in a January opinion that found the new requirements would prevent otherwise eligible citizens from voting. The commission said safeguards aimed at preventing voter fraud already exist.

Georgia did not join the lawsuit with Kansas and Arizona.

About 14,800 Kansas voters have their registrations on hold because they have yet to prove they are citizens to state election officials, the Associated Press reported.

Kobach has been a leader in the fight to enact voter identification laws across the country. His office established a consortium that allows states to cross-check new voter registrations to clean up their voter files by eliminating duplicate registrations; 28 states have joined the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program to date.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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