ACLU sues Kansas over proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration

The ACLU announced today that is has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Kansas over their citizenship requirement for voter registration, which the civil liberties organization says violates the National Voter Registration Act.

As the organization argued:

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

To comply with the law, states have to provide people with an opportunity to register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses at the DMV. Instead, Kansans are being told they must present additional citizenship paperwork in order to become registered — or they’re not being informed at all, only to find out later that they’ve been suspended from voting.

The requirement has put the voter registration status of 30,000 Kansans in jeopardy.

The lawsuit comes alongside a suit recently brought by the ACLU, among other groups, challenging the Election Assistance Commission’s decision to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to amend their voter registration forms to include a proof of citizenship requirement. This action came after the Commission had already successfully arguing against making those changes in court, and was reportedly the result of unilateral actions taken by the Commission’s executive director, Brian Newby, that he did not have the authority to take.

Not only is Kansas’s proof of citizenship requirement likely illegal, it isn’t even necessary to serve its stated purpose. When individuals on Kansas’s list of “suspended voters” — eligible voters who did not provide proof of citizenship when they registered — sued to be taken off the list, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office responded by simply registering them to vote. In the short term, he was able to claim that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, since they were no longer adversely affected by the law since they were no longer suspended. In the slightly less-short term, he was forced to concede that the state could verify registrants’ citizenship without requiring them to submit proof, such as a birth certificate.

The proof of citizenship requirement has lost pretty much every legal battle it’s been a part of. I like the ACLU’s chances here.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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