Kobach, Bennett team up for voting-rights lawsuit

Updated
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R)
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R)

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is known for his far-right antics targeting immigrants. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) is perhaps best known for flirting with the “birther” conspiracy theory and publicly questioning whether President Obama would be on the state ballot in 2012.

Put them together and what do you get? One misguided voting-rights lawsuit.

Kansas is teaming with Arizona on a lawsuit to save controversial laws requiring people to prove they’re citizens when they register to vote. […]

The lawsuit came a week after the American Civil Liberties Union signaled plans to challenge the Kansas citizenship requirement, which has already blocked the registration of more than 15,000 would-be voters.

All of this goes back to a recent Supreme Court ruling, in which the seven-member majority said states can’t simply add conditions to the federal voter-registration forms. Federal law doesn’t require Americans who hope to register to prove they’re citizens, so Arizona erred in making that a condition as part of a Republican anti-immigrant push.

Originally, Kobach envisioned a parallel voter-registration system in which folks would register twice – once with federal forms, allowing them to vote in federal elections, and then again with state forms, which would require proof of citizenship, and which would allow voters to participate in all other elections.

That, not surprisingly, was deemed utterly ridiculous, so now Kobach and Bennett have a new idea. They’re filing suit to require the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to change federal voter-registration forms for Kansas and Arizona so they reflect far-right wishes on proof of citizenship.

And why would Kobach and Bennett pursue this course? Because it’s the approach Justice Antonin Scalia recommended.

[D]uring oral arguments in March, Scalia expressed his bafflement that Arizona did not launch a broader assault on the constitutionality of the NVRA form, written by the Election Assistance Commission. The state simply contended in that case that its proof of citizenship law did not violate the federal law. Even Scalia disagreed with that, voting against Arizona in the ruling, but also giving them a valuable tip in his 7-2 majority opinion.

“We hold that [the NVRA] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Scalia wrote in the June decision. “Arizona may, however, request anew that the EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

As for the problem Kobach and Bennett are so eager to fix, it doesn’t appear to exist – there is no epidemic of non-citizens registering to vote in Kansas, Arizona, or any other state.

So why bother with federal lawsuits and desperate attempts to change federal forms? Because the far-right drive to make it harder for people to vote apparently has no limits.

Kris Kobach, Kansas, Arizona and Ken Bennett

Kobach, Bennett team up for voting-rights lawsuit

Updated