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Federal judge rules for Kansas, Arizona on voter proof of citizenship laws

The US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] on Wednesday ordered [PDF] the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) [official website] to assist Kansas and Arizona in enforcing their proof of citizenship laws for new voters by adding language requested by both states to the state-specific instructions on the federal mail voter registration form. Judge Eric Melgren stated in the court's ruling that Congress did not preempt state proof of citizenship laws with the National Voter Registration Act [PDF], and therefore found "the decision of the EAC denying the states' requests to be unlawful and in excess of its statutory authority." The US Supreme Court [official website] has ruled that laws requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections are unconstitutional, but it has preserved the states' rights to control who will vote in state and local elections. Kansas has set up a two-tiered voter registration system, which requires voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote in local and state elections. Arizona has also adopted a similar two-tiered voter registration system in response to the Supreme Court's ruling. Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, stated [press release] regarding the decision, "Because of this victory there will be no need for a dual election system. Otherwise we would have been stuck with a federal-elections-only ballot for those very few who used the federal form to register and failed to provide a citizenship document." Melgren ordered the EAC to immediately add the language requested by Arizona and Kansas to the state-specific instructions of the federal mail voter registration.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in November in Shawnee County District Court, challenging Kansas' two-tiered voter registration system. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett [official profiles] also filed an earlier complaint in August in the US District Court for the District of Kansas, demanding that the EAC modify federal voter registration forms to allow states to require proof of citizenship. The two-tier system in question allows voters who use the National registration form, which does not require proof of citizenship, to vote only in national elections. Voters must use the Kansas voter registration form in order to be eligible to also vote in local and state elections. Kobach lists "Stopping Voter Fraud" as the number one issue on his platform [personal website] on his political website.

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