Court Battles

Appeals court backs ruling against voter registration law in Kansas

A federal appeals court on Wednesday backed a lower court’s ruling that a Kansas voter identification law crafted by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach is unconstitutional and violates the National Voter Registration Act.

The law heralded by Kobach took effect in 2013 and mandates that people provide documentation proving U.S. citizenship before being allowed to register to vote.

The decision from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes after a federal district court struck down the law on the same grounds. The judges said the state had failed to provide convincing arguments in its appeal that Kansas was grappling with an issue over noncitizens attempting to register to vote. 

“In short, we conclude that the Secretary has failed to show that a substantial number of noncitizens successfully registered to vote,” they wrote.

The law has spent years under the legal limelight. A federal judge ruled in 2016 that Kansas does not have the constitutional power to mandate people to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote and later ruled in 2018 that Kobach was in contempt of court over failing to comply with orders in a case challenging the law.

State Democrats lauded the deal, with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D), who defeated Kobach in 2018’s gubernatorial race, saying at a news conference Wednesday that “eliminating any barriers to voting is a good thing.”

Kobach, who is running to fill outgoing Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R) seat, slammed the ruling as “judicial activism” and indicating the state’s Republican attorney general may appeal the decision. 

“The 10th Circuit decision striking down Kansas’s proof-of-citizenship law is the essence of judicial activism, setting aside the plain meaning of the law and replacing it with a subjective, policy-based balancing test,” Kobach tweeted. “If the Attorney General appeals and the Supreme Court takes the case, it is highly likely that the high court will overturn the decision.”

Kobach, who has sought to tie himself closely to President Trump, has made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the past.

His claims of voter fraud in the 2016 New Hampshire Senate election drew rebukes from fact checkers, and the voter fraud commission crafted by Trump and led by Kobach was ultimately disbanded after failing to produce evidence of widespread fraud.

Tags 2020 Senate races Donald Trump Kansas Pat Roberts registering to vote Voter ID laws

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