Politics & Government

Kansas voter citizenship rule advances in Legislature

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach won a round Wednesday when the House tentatively agreed to move up the starting date for requiring proof of citizenship for those registering to vote.

The proof-of-citizenship requirement was contained in the new voter ID law that the Legislature passed last year. However, it starts at the beginning of January.

This year’s bill, approved on a voice vote, would move the start date to June 15. Kobach wanted the requirement in place for this fall’s general election when more people are expected to register.

Similar measures have been been implemented in several other states, and one is being challenged in Arizona.

Kobach has argued that the requirement is needed to avoid voter fraud. The law does not apply to people already registered. It’s expected to apply mostly to people moving here from out of state or anyone turning 18.

Opponents argued that the bill would suppress voter registration because people might not take the time and effort to obtain the necessary documentation.

They also contend that the bill has the effect of being a poll tax because someone from out of state might have to pay to get the paperwork from their home state.

“Should this bill become law, it’s going to have a devastating impact on the voters in this state,” said Rep. Ann Mah, a Topeka Democrat. “It’s simply reprehensible.”

The documents acceptable for proving citizenship include a driver’s license or a government ID card that certifies the person is a citizen.

Other permissible documents include a birth certificate, applicable pages of a passport, naturalization documents or an individual’s American Indian ID card.

Kobach wanted the citizenship requirement to start this year when the Legislature passed the voter ID bill in 2011. But the provision was removed in the Senate.

A similar measure requiring proof of citzenship for registering to vote was approved by Arizona voters in 2004. However, the law is being considered by a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

Kobach was confident that the law would survive judicial scruinty, noting that 9th Circuit rulings don’t apply here.

“We drafted the law so that it is legally airtight,” Kobach said.

“If any plaintiffs decide to challenge the Kansas law in court, they will have an uphill climb. The precedents that apply to Kansas are strongly in our favor,” he said.

The bill is up for final approval Thursday.

To read more, visit www.kansascity.com.