Feds Deny State Bids to Tighten Voter Registration

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States already have other means available to enforce citizenship requirements without requiring additional information from applicants, including access to national databases of birth certificates and naturalization information, the agency noted.

Given the “paucity of evidence” provided by the states regarding noncitizens registering to vote, the new voter registration requirements enacted by the states reflect “legislative policy preferences” and are not based on any demonstrated necessity, the agency said. It also said that the heightened documentation requirements imposed by Kansas and Arizona have led to significant reductions in organized voter registration programs.

“This is a significant decision for all eligible voters underscoring the purpose of the National Voter Registration Act to remove barriers such as documentary proof of citizenship that prevent eligible citizens from registering to vote and voting,” Michelle Kanter Cohen, a lawyer representing Project Vote in the states’ lawsuit in Kansas, said in an email Saturday.

“What we have seen where these laws have been implemented in Arizona and Kansas is that tens of thousands of eligible Americans have been rejected or suspended from the voter rolls, and community voter registration drives have been significantly hampered,” Cohen said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Arizona could not refuse to accept the national voter registration form, even though people who use it aren’t required to provide citizenship documents.

Kobach has said that if he cannot get a federal court to order EAC to modify the federal registration form with state-specific requirements, he would institute — on his own authority as Kansas secretary of state — a dual registration that limits Kansans who register with the federal form to voting only in presidential, U.S. Senate and congressional races.

“We applaud the EAC’s decision to uphold this law and protect the right to vote,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at NYU School of Law, which represents the League of Women Voters in the Kansas litigation. “We hope Arizona and Kansas abandon their quest to undermine federal law by making voter registration more complicated.”

(AP Photo: In this photo from Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of the state’s proof-of-citizenship law for new voters, is photographed.)

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