10th Circuit Hears Case for DMV Voter Rights

      DENVER (CN) – Kansas urged the 10th Circuit on Tuesday to block thousands of votes from citizens who cast ballots without the identification documents that the state requires.
     Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked the three-judge panel to reinstate voter ID laws in the state that would require citizens registering to vote at a Department of Motor Vehicles office to supply a passport, birth certificate, or another official form of proof of citizenship.
     The American Civil Liberties Union claims that Kobach’s demands directly violate the National Voter Registration Act, and the civil rights group sued Kobach over thousands of Kansas citizens who claim they were unable to register to vote because they did not have the required documents.
     The ACLU filed their lawsuit U.S. District Court in February, after which U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren returned ACLU’s case to Shawnee County District Court in April. In July, Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks issued a temporary order to allow the estimated 17,500 votes submitted by the citizens that had not provided proof of citizenship to be counted for the Aug. 2 presidential primary.
     Tuesday, the ACLU asked the 10th Circuit to permanently uphold the district court’s order. Kobach told the circuit panel that the appellees were trying to “change the status quo,” and that the National Voter Registration Act did not directly bar his plan.
     “Nowhere in the NVRA is ‘documentary proof of citizenship’ even mentioned,” Kobach said.
     “The phrase ‘minimum amount of information necessary’ only refers to information written by the applicant on the base of the [registration] form itself.”
     But Dale Ho, who represented the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that Kobach’s stance was simply unlawful.
     “The appellant’s position that there are no limits whatsoever on the documents that states may require from Motor Voter applicants in order to establish citizenship…that can’t be the law,” Ho said.
     “[The NVRA] effectively reads the words ‘only the minimum amount of information necessary,'” Ho said. “The record case shows that in fact 18,000 Kansans were blocked from registering to vote. People who, if they lived in any other states … likely would have been registered without a second thought.”
     Currently, Ho argued, the minimum information necessary for a citizen to register to vote is their own attestation, under penalty of perjury, that they are in fact citizens.
     Judge Carolyn McHugh asked: “As I understand it… the attestation is all the state can ask for – that’s it, it equals minimum information necessary, is that correct?”
     “That is correct,” Ho said. “We think it’s consistent with the plain text from Section Five [of the National Voter Registration Act.]”
     Ho also alluded to a former Tenth Circuit case, Kobach et al. v. United States Election Assistance Commission, in which the Circuit ruled that federal registration forms need not follow the state’s proof of citizenship requirements.
     “If it’s rational for the EAC to preclude a documentary proof of citizenship requirement, then such a requirement clearly exceeds the minimum amount of information necessary,” Ho said.
     Judges Jerome Holmes, Mary Briscoe and Carolyn McHugh presided.

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