Friday, August 30, 2013

Voting rights rally scheduled for start of special legislative session

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — Right after the Kansas Legislature convenes a special session Tuesday, a number of groups plan to rally to ask that legislators change the new proof-of-citizenship requirement to vote.

"This is an opportunity to fix the voter crisis," a release from KanVote and the Wichita-based Sunflower Community Action states.

Since Jan. 1, when a state law took effect requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, approximately 15,000 would-be voters won't be able to vote because they filled out registration forms but election officials haven't yet received a birth certificate, passport, or other acceptable document.

The ACLU, on behalf of several groups, has threatened to file a lawsuit against the state, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped pass the proof-of-citizenship requirement, has defended the law.

Meanwhile, two Democratic legislators say they will file for the special session the Protection Against Voter Suppression Act, which would add to the state law a provision similar to the one in federal law that allows a voter to sign an affidavit stating he or she is a citizen. If the statement is proven false, the voter would face a jail sentence.

Gov. Sam Brownback, however, and legislative leaders, all Republicans, say they want to limit the special session to working on the state law that allows a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years in heinous murder cases. State officials say a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has put that law in jeopardy.

The voting rights rally will kick off at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Statehouse. Other groups planning to participate in the rally include the Kansas NAACP and the state chapter of the League of Women Voters.