WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he has no plans to ask lawmakers to ban voters who registered with a federal form from casting ballots in state and local elections.
Instead, he said he may appeal or ask a judge to reconsider a state court's ruling last week that he had no legal right to institute the state's "dual registration" system, in which those who register using a federal form that doesn't require proof of U.S. citizenship may only vote in federal races. Under that system, voters may only cast ballots in state and local races if they register using the state form, which requires proof of citizenship.
"We believe that the judge has made a number of legal errors in his opinion and they will be corrected on appeal," Kobach said. "The Kansas law is absolutely sound."
The Republican contends existing law states plainly that a person who has not provided proof of citizenship shall not be registered, "and so we are complying with Kansas law and there is no constitutional or other problem with that law."
But Dale Ho, director of American Civil Liberties Union voting rights project, said the court's ruling is very clear: Kobach has no legislative to disallow federally registered voters from having a say in state and local races.
"The fact the Secretary is unwilling to go to the Legislature shows just how arbitrarily his office has been behaving — they obviously do not believe the Legislature would authorize something like this," Ho said.
A Kansas judge summarily ruled Friday in favor of two voters in the lawsuit brought on their behalf by the ACLU in Shawnee County District Court. In an unsuccessful move to get their lawsuit thrown out, Kobach already previously registered both voters for all elections, so the judge gave the ACLU until Jan. 29 to ask the court whether it wants him to do anything more.
"He hasn't issued an injunction ordering anybody to do anything," Kobach said of the judge. He also noted there are seven months before any election for federal offices, so "there is still time for the case to have additional ripples."
Since January 2013, Kansas has required new voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. Kobach later lost a federal lawsuit he brought seeking to force the U.S. election officials to change the federal registration form to require citizenship documentation for Kansas residents. In response, Kobach instituted the dual voting lists in 2014.
In Kansas, federally registered voters are given a provisional ballot and election officials throw out votes made in local or state races. The judge separately noted such provisional ballots violate the secrecy of the ballot, especially in smaller precincts where election officials know their neighbors.