Controversial Kansas voting law could be headed to federal court

A controversial Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship for would-be voters at the polls and when they register could be headed to federal court this fall.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a letter with the Kansas Secretary of State on Tuesday giving a 90-day notice of their intent to sue the state over the law it and other civil rights organizations consider to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, has drawn fire from voting rights advocates nationwide for his authorship of, and outspoken advocacy for, bills which require documents like a passport or a birth certificate for would-be voters in several states.

"Secretary of State Kobach is blocking thousands upon thousands of Kansas from their rightful participation in the political process," Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU's voting rights project said.

An Arizona law similar to the one which came into full effect in Kansas this January was struck down by the Supreme Court in June. In a statement emailed to 41 Action News on Tuesday afternoon, Kobach referred back to the Arizona case and vowed to defend the Kansas law.

"The Supreme Court did not hold that a state may not require proof of citizenship to register," Kobach said in the statement. "The State of Kansas takes the citizenship qualification seriously and will enforce it."

Kobach said that he was reviewing the six page letter sent by the ACLU outlining their complaints, and said the group's opposition to the Kansas law was "no surprise."

At the ACLU's office overseeing Kansas and Western Missouri, the organization's executive director accused Kobach's-- and the law's-- focus on preventing voter fraud of being politically motivated.

"Secretary of State Kobach, when he ran, made a big deal about voter fraud. Voter fraud is just non-existent. I think it is a political football, not really something based on fact," the ACLU's Kansas and Western Missouri's Executive Director Gary Brunk said. "There is no voter fraud problem in Kansas. Somebody once said there is probably as many voter fraud incidents in Kansas as certified sightings of UFO's."

Brunk also said that problems processing citizenship documents like passports and birth certificates at Kansas DMV's have meant even legal citizens have found themselves in "suspense," the technical term for a limbo of not-quite-registered, pending approval of their documents.

The Kansas Secretary of State's office does not dispute local media reports that roughly 14,000 Kansans' registrations remain in suspense.

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