Federal appeals court strikes down Kansas voter registration law requiring proof of citizenship

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A federal appeals court has struck down a restrictive voting law from Kansas that had required proof of citizenship before registering to vote.

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the federal district court that the documentary proof of citizenship (DPOC) requirement “unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote.” The court concluded more than 31,000 Kansas residents were prevented from registering to vote.

Kansas is one of several states whose voter ID laws are being challenged in court.

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The Kansas Secretary of State had defended the law, saying it was necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process. But the three-judge appellate panel found, “The Secretary has failed to show that a substantial number of noncitizens have successfully registered in Kansas.”

The League of Women Voters along with the ACLU and individual Kansas voters had brought suit. A federal judge had earlier blocked enforcement of the state law.

“This law disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans, denying them the most fundamental right in our democracy," said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. "We are gratified the court struck it down, and now call upon Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab to turn the page on Kris Kobach’s sorry legacy of voter suppression, drop any further appeals, and work with us collaboratively in the interests of all Kansas voters.”

The law was promoted by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who had claimed millions of illegal immigrants across the country may have voted in the 2016 election. President Trump had earlier backed that allegation and had named Kobach to lead a voter fraud commission that is no longer operating.

“We conclude that the significant burden quantified by the 31,089 voters who had their registration applications canceled or suspended” in the state, said the 84-page court opinion. “The precise interests put forward by the Secretary do not justify the burden imposed on the right to vote.  Thus, we conclude the DPOC requirement is unconstitutional.”

There was no immediate reaction from state officials to the ruling.