Embargoed until 8:00am, Tuesday, September 3, 2013
COALITION DEMANDS IMMEDIATE REPEAL OF UNCONSTITUTIONAL VOTER SUPPRESSION LAW
Looming October Elections May See Disenfranchisement of Kansas Voters
Topeka, KS, September 3, 2013 -
As the Kansas Legislature convenes today for the purpose of repairing Kansas’ “Hard 50” law following the June 17, 2013 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Alleyne v. United States, Kansas faces an additional ‘extraordinary occasion’ that leaves over 15,000 eligible voters in Kansas in “suspended” voter registration status and unable to cast a ballot.
In June, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Arizona v. Arizona Inter-Tribal Council that Arizona’s attempt to create additional voter registration requirements is inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and is violation of federal law. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that Arizona must “accept and use for the purpose intended” voter registrations that meet the Federal requirement. Kansas’ law requiring additional documentation (K.S.A. 25-2309(l)) is essentially identical to the Arizona law, and currently impacts over one-third of the voter registration applications submitted in Kansas since January 1, 2013.
“Kansas’ documentary proof-of-citizenship requirement is preventing thousands of Kansas citizens from completing the registration process for no good purpose,” said Holly Weatherford, Advocacy Director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “The United States Supreme Court has insisted that voter registration applications be accepted and used for the purpose intended. There are over 15,000 Kansans who have complied with federal law, and it’s time to register them, let them vote, and have their votes be counted,” said Weatherford. “The Kansas Legislature must act today to protect the right to vote for all eligible voters in Kansas.”
ACLU national and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri sent a letter last month to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach saying that it will take legal action if the state does not comply with federal voting law. The letter was sent on behalf of several individuals and Equality Kansas, the NAACP Kansas State Conference, and the League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County.
“If the Legislature is going to spend taxpayer money on this constitutional crisis to fix the ‘Hard 50’ law, we expect them to resolve the actual crisis our state faces today,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas. “Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s argument that he has ‘accepted’ voter registrations, but will not permit the registrants to vote, directly contradicts the clear opinion of Justice Scalia. It is time for Kobach to respect the law, respect the Supreme Court, and fulfill his duty to uphold the law,” he said.
Thousands of individuals who have fully complied with Kansas requirements for driver’s license applications and renewals, however, have not been permitted to register to vote. In many cases, this has occurred because proof of citizenship documents, which are required under Kansas law for first-time driver’s license applicants, have not been transferred from the Division of Vehicles to county election officials for voter registration purposes.
“I live in Overland Park, where we’re having an election next month,” said Aaron Belenky, an eligible Kansas voter whose registration application is in ‘suspense’. “My voter registration has been unlawfully ‘suspended,’ and unless the legislature repeals this law, I will be denied my most fundamental freedom, the right to vote,” said Belenky. “It’s a sad day when our elected officials, who are sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution, instead use their office to pursue a divisive political agenda at the expense of the people’s right to vote,” he said.
The National Voter Registration Act does not require that individuals applying for or renewing a driver’s license provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The statute clearly provides that “the voter registration application portion of an application for a State motor vehicle driver’s license . . . shall include a statement that—(i) states each eligibility requirement (including citizenship); (ii) contains an attestation that the applicant meets each such requirement; and (iii) requires the signature of the applicant, under penalty of perjury. Additional documentary proof of citizenship requirements – ones the State of Kansas itself deems unnecessary for driver’s license renewals - clearly exceed the minimum amount of information necessary.
“Kansans are simply trying to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Kris Kobach is now wasting Kansas taxpayer money in a misguided lawsuit that seeks to nullify federal law,” said Glenda Overstreet, president of the NAACP Kansas State Conference. “Since January 1st, he has flouted that law, insisting that Kansans provide documentation that is simply not required,” said Overstreet. “Voting is the most fundamental freedom we have as Americans, and Kobach’s scheme is un-American and must end immediately.”
The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
Equality Kansas’ mission is to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, with chapters in 11 Kansas cities.
The NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United State and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.
ACLU Voter Press Statement
"Would-be voters are exasperated by Kansas’ new registration law", Kansas City Star, 9/02/2013
"Legislature unlikely to change proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration", LJ World, 9/03/2013
"Push to end Kan. proof-of-citizenship rule falters", Hutchinson News, 9/03/2013
"Citizenship rule complicates voter sign-up for thousands", Topeka Capital-Journal, 9/08/2013