Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Senate Democratic leader asks attorney general whether Supreme Court’s voter decision affects Kansas

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

A legislative leader on Tuesday asked Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to issue a legal opinion on whether the state's proof of citizenship requirement to register to vote is valid now that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in another state.

On Monday, the high court ruled 7-2 that an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote was pre-empted by the federal voter registration law, which does not require documentation of citizenship.

But Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who pushed for the Kansas law, said the Kansas law remained valid because it was different from the Arizona law.

Under the Arizona law, officials must reject any voter registration application that is not accompanied by documented proof of citizenship. The Kansas law says the voter registration forms are accepted but the people still can't vote until they show proof of citizenship.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said he wants Schmidt, a Republican, to weigh in on the issue.

In a letter to Schmidt, Hensley said, "Specifically, I am requesting your opinion as to whether the proof of citizenship requirement contained in Kansas law is invalid in light of the United State Supreme Court decision" in the Arizona case.

Schmidt's office said the attorney general doesn't comment on requests for attorney general opinions.

The ACLU, which fought against the Arizona law, said the Supreme Court ruling was a victory for voters and may affect the Kansas law.

“This decision raises important questions about Kansas’ restrictive law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote; questions that the ACLU will address as we determine how best to ensure that Kansas is in compliance with today’s decision and federal law," said Gary Brunk, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

Supporters of proof of citizenship requirements say they are needed to prevent voter fraud.

But opponents said the requirement creates a hurdle to voting, especially for people who have difficulty or are unable to get the necessary documentation, such as a birth certificate, to prove citizenship.