Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in his Topeka, Kan., office May 12, 2016.
Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters

Kris Kobach won’t say if he’s complying with order to register voters

Updated

    A federal court gave Kansas until Tuesday to start registering thousands of would-be voters tripped up by the state’s strict proof of citizenship law. But Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t saying whether he’s complying with the order. 

    It’s been radio silence from Kobach since Friday night, when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the order issued last month by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. A Kobach spokeswoman didn’t respond to multiple phone and email messages asking whether Kobach intends to begin registering voters. Messages sent on Twitter to Kobach and to the official account for the secretary of state’s office also went unanswered. 

    “Secretary Kobach has repeatedly stood in the way of thousands of Kansans who have tried to exercise their right to vote,” Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s voting rights project, said in a statement Tuesday.“ Today that ends. He must let them vote.”

    At issue is the fate of more than 18,000 voter registration applications—most submitted by Kansans under the age of 30— that came via motor vehicle offices and that didn’t include documentary proof of citizenship. Citing a 2011 state law he pushed for that requires applicants to submit proof of citizenship, Kobach says the applications should be rejected. Voter registration applicants already must affirm, on penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens.

    But in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Robinson found that the Kansas law, as applied to those who register through department of motor vehicles offices, likely violates the National Voter Registration Act, which aims to make registration through public agencies as easy as possible. She ordered Kobach to begin registering voters for federal elections by Tuesday. A trial on the merits is scheduled for August. 

    Kobach’s office said in court that beyond the 18,000 existing applications at issue, the order could affect any application that comes via the motor vehicle offices before the November election—an estimated 50,000 applications. 

    Kobach has said the law is needed to stop illegal voting—and lately he’s been blasting out press releases touting a series of illegal voting prosecutions. But Robinson found that only three noncitizens voted in Kansas in federal elections between 1995 and 2013. Roughly 14 non-citizens tried to register during that period. 

    Robinson also found that 58 percent of applicants who registered through the motor vehicles office and whose applications haven’t been processed are under age 30. People under 30 make up less than 15 percent of Kansas registered voters. Young voters tend to vote Democratic.

    The ACLU also has filed suit to block a move by the federal Election Assistance Commission that makes it easier for Kansas and three other states to require proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Kobach had pressed the agency’s director, an ally, to greenlight the move.

    Voting Rights

    Kris Kobach won't say if he's complying with order to register voters

    Updated