Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Post-Election Voter Registration Battle Continues in Kansas

A federal court in Kansas has advanced an ongoing battle over voter registration to trial, striking down motions for summary judgment by both the American Civil Liberties Union and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – A federal court in Kansas has advanced an ongoing battle over voter registration  to trial, striking down motions for summary judgment by both the American Civil Liberties Union and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The ACLU sued Kobach in February 2016, claiming that Kansas law violates the National Voter Registration Act by requiring proof of citizenship to register.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson disagreed that the registration requirement hinders voters’ right to travel under the 14th Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, which prohibits states from discriminating against citizens from other states.

“While it may be true that it is more burdensome for a non-Kansas born citizen to have an incomplete voter registration application in Kansas, the court finds that this burden is not unreasonable in the context of the law’s enforcement as a whole,” Robinson wrote in Thursday’s ruling.

But Robinson also denied Kobach’s cross motion for summary judgment, in which he claimed that the law did not create an undue burden on voters who registered without proof of citizenship documents.

In her denial, she cited the 2016 voter rolls in which voters were purged from the records when officials deemed their registrations incomplete.

“The magnitude of the [voter registration] law’s burden—approximately 20,000 voter registration applications have been cancelled for failure to produce [proof of citizenship] as of December 2016—indicates that Kansas voter registration applicants are more severely burdened than the voters subject to other states’ laws requiring photo-ID for in-person voting,” Robinson wrote.

Kobach, who has advised President Trump on illegal immigration and voter fraud, is also facing a district court trial to determine whether or not his hand-crafted policies violate the NVRA. And days before the 2016 election, a state judge in Shawnee County blocked Kobach’s requirement that voters provide additional proof of citizenship in addition to photo IDs and the standard federal voter registration forms.

In April, District of Kansas U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara ordered Kobach to turn over documents from his meeting with the president to the ACLU. That order was stayed less than a week later to allow Kobach time to mount an appeal. The front page of the documents, which refers to voter rolls, was captured in an Associated Press photo of Kobach with the president. The ACLU argued the documents are relevant to their case if they contain voting law changes.

The trial is set for June 5, but both sides will meet via telephone conference next week to determine whether to push the date back.

Neither the ACLU nor Secretary Kobach responded to requests for comment made after business hours on Friday.

Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Politics

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.