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Kansas Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional

FILE - A voter enters City Hall in Lecompton, Kansas, to vote in the state's primary election, Aug. 2, 2016.

A federal appeals court panel ruled that a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote is unconstitutional and violates the Equal Protection Clause and National Voter Registration Act.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Salt Lake City upheld the permanent injunction by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson banning the statute's use and enforcement of the requirement. The decision extends beyond Kansas to all six states covered by the 10th Circuit: Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, and it mandates them to comply.

FILE - Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks at an events center in Lenexa, Kansas, June 8, 2017.
FILE - Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks at an events center in Lenexa, Kansas, June 8, 2017.

The law, pushed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, illegally mandated that voters show documentary proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, to register to vote.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kansas, and Dechert LLP, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kansas and residents of Kansas. In June 2018, a previous federal trial court struck down the law after finding it violated the National Voter Registration Act and the U.S. Constitution and prompted the state's appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Other efforts

The legal battle rages beyond Kansas as members of the Republican Party across the country, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have attempted to implement similar laws, saying their goal is eliminating in-person voter fraud.

In January, Republican leaders in the Minnesota Senate were quoted as saying they planned to renew their push for a voter ID law, and in early April, Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislation chose to require voters to show a government-issued ID.

Studies have shown that in-person voter fraud is rare, and critics of voter ID, such as the ACLU, assert that the Republican efforts are an attempt to suppress voter turnout.

Kansas case

In reaching their verdict, the justices of the 10th Circuit found that the 31,089 Kansas voters whose registration applications were canceled or suspended proved that the law met the standards of a significant burden.

In court filings, Kansas contested that the law was put forth with the sole interest in preventing voter fraud, arguing the requirement of proof of citizenship upholds the integrity of elections and does not pose a significant hurdle to voters.