Top Kansas official sued over rule that keeps registered voters out of state races

TOPEKA, Kan., July 19 (UPI) — The Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and three Kansans on Tuesday filed suit against a top state official, over a system they argue muddles the ballot process and prevents rightful voters from participating in all races.

The lawsuit, Brown v. Kobach, was filed in the Third Judicial District in Topeka against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who it claims has installed a dual voter registration system that’s unconstitutional and illegally creates two unequal classes of voters.

A three-year-old state law, and a new temporary rule, they claim, unlawfully throws out votes cast by residents who registered at state motor vehicle offices — where they are not required to furnish proof of American citizenship.

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Because the law allowing registration at DMV offices is a federal one, Kobach’s rule allows residents who signed up there to vote in federal races — but not state contests.

Such a dual system, the ACLU says, violates state law and the Kansas Constitution.

“Secretary Kobach continues to seek ways to confuse and obstruct voters in Kansas,” ACLU Kansas attorney Sophia Lakin said in a statement Tuesday. “Kansans still face unnecessary barriers to voting. We’re asking the court to immediately block the temporary regulation and to ultimately end this dual system once and for all.”

Last week, Kobach received approval from the State Rules and Regulations Board for the temporary rule, which lasts for 120 days. That four-month window covers Nov. 8 — election day.

“Secretary Kobach continues to place roadblocks in front of Kansas voters,” ACLU Kansas Legal Director Doug Bonney said. “The people of Kansas deserve better.”

Kobach spokesman Craig McCullah said in an email that the secretary of state’s office is reviewing the complaint, The Wichita Eagle reported Tuesday.

A state law requiring proof of citizenship to vote was adopted in 2013 as an anti-fraud measure. Last week’s regulation to exclude state races will affect about 17,000 residents for Kansas’ August primary, but that number could grow to 50,000 by November.

“The dual registration system divides registered voters in Kansas into two separate and unequal classes, with vastly different rights and privileges based on nothing more than the method of registration that a voter uses and the date on which the voter applies to register,” the lawsuit states.

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“My family has been in Kansas since about 1850. It’s wrong that a bunch of so-called leaders would tell me that I have to show a bunch of extra documents before I can vote,” Kansas resident, U.S. Army veteran and suit plaintiff Marvin Brown, 90, said. “As a military veteran who fought to protect our democracy, it’s particularly offensive.”

Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state since 2011 and an official supporter of GOP candidate Donald Trump, is among the Republicans who have helped craft the party’s official platform for the 2016 presidential election. He is in Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention.

Monday, The New York Times published a scathing editorial of Kobach. calling him a “right-wing zealot.”

“[Kobach] found time last week to do actual damage to Kansans with a devious, 11th-hour policy that would disqualify 17,000 of them as state voters, even though they are allowed by law to vote in federal elections,” the Times editorial board wrote. “He obviously timed this bit of contumely so that any rulings on appeals would be unlikely before this summer’s voting.”

“Appellate courts should act swiftly to show Mr. Kobach just how wrong he is.”

Brown v Kobach

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