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ACLU sues Kansas to block the state's dual voting system

The ACLU is fighting a newly enacted Kansas law that would throw out votes in state and local elections from voters who had not shown their passports at registration.

Dave Kaup/Reuters
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his office in Topeka, Kan., May 12.

The voting rights of Kansas residents will be subject to another court battle.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday in an effort to block a Kansas election rule that could throw out thousands of votes in state and local elections.

People who didn’t provide proof of US citizenship when they registered to vote at motor vehicles offices will only be able to vote in federal elections for the next 120 days, until the day after November's general election, under a temporary rule sought by Kansas's Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach and approved by the State Rules and Regulation Board last week.

More than 17,000 voters are currently affected, but the Associated Press predicts as many as 50,000 voters could be subject to the “dual registration system” in November, having their votes counted for US Senate and House races, but not in the Kansas Legislature elections, when all 165 legislature seats will be up for a vote.

ACLU officials appeared in court in April to block the 2013 Kansas law on which the most recent temporary rule is based, as Christina Beck reported for The Christian Science Monitor. Under the law, US passports and birth certificates pass muster as identifications when residents show up to motor vehicles offices, but free state-issued IDs do not.

The judge subsequently ruled that voters do not need to meet the proof-of-citizenship requirements to be registered for federal elections, so Kansas must register the thousands of eligible voters who had been blocked from doing so.

ACLU lawyers will return to court soon, armed with rulings in former cases against Secretary Kobach where the court ruled the state isn’t allowed to use a two-tiered voting system that only counts votes in federal elections.

Kobach argues that proof-of-citizenship requirements prevent voting fraud.

"This is a very real issue and we have lots of close elections where the margin of victory is one vote or four to five votes," Kobach said, as the Monitor previously reported. "Non-citizens voting can potentially steal an election."

Voting ID laws target a very uncommon type of fraud: voting impersonation, which was documented 31 times in one billion votes cast, according to Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Critics of voter ID laws claim their main impact is to disenfranchise marginalized groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, disabled individuals, and those in poverty.

Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia also have proof-of citizenship laws on the books, though none of the states are enforcing them as adamantly as Kansas.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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