LAWRENCE, Kan. (CN) - Two Kansas residents are suing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to block him from booting residents with incomplete voter registration forms off the state's rolls.
Alder Cromwell and Cody Keener of Douglas County, who are both Kansas residents and U.S. citizens, sued Kobach in Federal Court on Wednesday claiming Kansas' requirement that voter registration applicants must submit proof of citizenship within 90 days of submitting their application or be deleted from the rolls is unconstitutional.
Cromwell and Keener are represented by Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in 2014 against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback - losing the gubernatorial election by only 32,096 votes.
Kansas law requires individuals registering to vote in federal and state elections to provide proof of citizenship. However, last month Kobach issued a rule implementing a voter removal program that requires applicants to provide proof of citizenship within 90 days or be removed from voter rolls.
The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction to stop enforcement of the Kansas citizenship requirement and the 90-day rule.
Deleting incomplete voter registrations after 90 days violates the National Voter Registration Act, which requires that states allow eligible persons to vote by applying with a driver's license application renewal, by mail-in forms, or at certain state offices, claimed the suit.
The lawsuit also calls Kansas' citizenship requirement "overly broad" and claims the rule infringes on the fundamental constitutional right to vote because it is not "narrowly tailored to any compelling state interest."
"Discriminatory and unfair registration laws and procedures can have a direct and damaging effect on voter participation in elections for federal office and disproportionately harm voter participation by various groups, including racial minorities," the men say in the complaint.
Eligible voters who submit applications without required documentation are marked as "in suspense" in the voter registration database. Cromwell and Keener both registered to vote and currently marked "in suspense."
The lawsuit "does not represent the reality of the law" and discarding incomplete voter registrations after 90 days doesn't violate the National Voter Registration Act, said Kobach spokesman Craig McCullah.
Voters must complete the registration process in order to be added to the voting rolls, he said. If a citizen started but failed to complete their registration within 90 days, they need to begin the process over by filling out a half-page form and providing proof of citizenship.
A statement issued by McCullah also alluded to Davis' failed bid for governor.
"It is interesting that the plaintiffs in this case are represented by Paul Davis, a former Democratic candidate for governor, and Will Lawrence, a former employee of Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley. One would think these individuals would have a better understanding of the law."
Davis begged to differ.
"The law does not allow for a purging of voters like what Secretary Kobach is plotting to accomplish," Davis said in a written statement. "Voting is a fundamental right guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and it is imperative that this right be protected."
In a separate ongoing lawsuit filed in 2013, ACLU of Kansas is challenging the state's proof-of-citizenship voting registration requirement. In August, Shawnee County Judge Franklin Theis rejected Kobach's request for a ruling in that lawsuit but allowed his office to continue enforcing the requirement.
If the proof-of-citizenship rule is allowed to take effect on October 2, around 36,000 eligible voters will be removed from Kansas voter registration rolls.
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