Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kobach considering plan that could produce two kinds of voters

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — Some voters in Kansas would be able to vote in federal elections but not state contests under a proposal that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach today said he was considering.

"A state could certainly achieve that course," Kobach said.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court in an Arizona case threw out Arizona's law that requires would-be voters to provide documents proving U.S. citizenship.

But Kobach said the court ruling was narrowly drawn to address only those who use the federal "Motor Voter" registration form.

Writing for the 7-2 Supreme Court majority, Justice Antonin Scalia had said that federal law "precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself."

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.

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."

But Kobach said few Kansans register to vote using the federal form, so it shouldn't affect too many voters.

Since the state proof of citizenship requirement took effect at the start of this year, more than 13,000 new Kansas voter registrants have been unable to complete the process because they didn't provide citizenship documents, such as a birth certificate or passport.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said of the proposal that Kobach was considering, "I don't think that makes a lick of sense."

Davis said he thinks the Legislature or the courts are going to have to step in to ensure that qualified voters are able to vote.