Kansas Can No Longer Ask Voters for Proof of Citizenship

Supermajority Education Fund

May 4, 2020

A federal appeals court ruled on April 28 that the state of Kansas can no longer require potential voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. The decision upheld a 2018 injunction by a federal judge who found that the law in question — which was in effect between 2013 and 2016 — was more likely to prohibit eligible voters from registering than preventing voter fraud in the state.

The proof of citizenship law had been championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who claimed that millions of non-citizens had been voting illegally in the United States. The Associated Press estimates that while the law was in effect, nearly 35,000 Kansas residents were unable to register to vote. One in seven voter registration forms submitted in Kansas during that time were rejected.

“For decades, people have completed their voter registration form without having to show a copy of their birth certificate,” Kristen Clarke, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Supermajority News. “This was all about making it harder to register to vote and harder for people to exercise a voice in our democracy.”

While advocates are hailing the federal court ruling as a victory for voting rights, Clarke notes that there is much more to do nationwide to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised leading up to November’s election. According to Fair Fight, 1.6 million voters were purged from the voting rolls between 2010 and 2018 and nearly 30,000 voters were forced to vote on a provisional ballot, many of which were never counted. Clarke encourages anyone who has difficulty voting at the polls to “stand their ground” and call the Lawyers’ Committee voting hotline for assistance.

Voting protections are especially crucial as the coronavirus pandemic continues. States can respond to voting-related challenges created by the pandemic by both lifting restrictions, such as those on absentee voting, and figuring out how to register more people while they’re confined to their homes.

“Now is the time states should be affirmatively sending out absentee ballots or absentee ballot applications for registered voters,” Clarke said. “Vote by mail is an important avenue to promote, but it is not the only avenue,” she continued, adding that states should also be working on expanding early voting and in-person voter registration.

“It is really critical that every voter is able to exercise their voice in our democracy,” she said.