[JURIST] A federal appeals court on Friday rejected [opinion, PDF] a Kansas rule that required prospective voters to show proof-of-citizenship documents before registering using a federal voter registration form. The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] also said that a federal agency does not have to alter the voter registration form to fit Kansas requirements. The Kansas requirement is separate from the state's law requiring voters show a photo ID at the polls. Previously US District Judge Eric Melgren ruled [JURIST report] that the US Election Assistance Commission [official website] was required to add state-specific citizenship proof requirements to the instructions for using the federal form in Kansas and Arizona, which has a similar proof-of-citizenship requirement. The appeals court overturned Melgren's ruling, saying that Kansas and Arizona have other less burdensome ways to check voter citizenship than requiring voters to provide birth records. The federal form was enabled by the National Voting Rights Act [text] and was meant to create a common voter registration card that could be used to register across the country. The form requires only a signature under penalty of perjury to prove citizenship.
State voter ID laws [JURIST background] have been highly contested in dozens of US states in recent years. Last month, the US Supreme Court [official website] allowed [JURIST report] Texas to enforce a strict 2011 voter identification law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. However, the court provided no reasoning in its order. Also in October the Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] struck down [JURIST report] that state's voter ID law finding it unconstitutional. The law required ID in the form of a voter ID card or a document or ID card showing the voter's name and photo issued by the US, the state of Arkansas, or an accredited postsecondary educational institution in Arkansas. A week before, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked [JURIST report] Wisconsin from enforcing its voter ID laws as a result of an emergency request filed by voter advocacy groups. In August a judge for the US District Court Middle District of North Carolina [official website] rejected [JURIST report] preliminary relief in the form of an injunction against a new voter law in North Carolina requiring voters to show a picture ID at the polls by 2016. In May Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced [JURIST report] that the state's Office of General Counsel will not pursue an appeal in defense of the state's voter ID law requiring all voters to submit a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in all elections. A recent nonpartisan congressional study [JURIST report] shows that states that have toughened their voter ID laws have experienced steeper drops in election turnout than those that have not, including disproportionate falloffs among blacks and young voters