WICHITA, Kan. — Kansas and Arizona have rekindled a lawsuit seeking to
force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to require residents to show
proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote, arguing that a recent agency
decision to deny the requests was unlawful.
In a filing late Friday in a case with broad implications for voting rights,
the two states asked U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren to order federal officials
to include state-specific requirements in federal voter registration forms.
Kansas and Arizona require voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or
other proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. People who register
using the federal form sign only a statement under oath that they are U.S.
The latest legal move was not unexpected. Melgren had previously scheduled a
Feb. 11 hearing in the wake of a decision last month by the election commission
that rejected the states’ requests, finding that stricter proof-of-citizenship
rules hinder eligible citizens from voting in federal elections.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has championed proof-of-citizenship laws
to keep non-citizens from voting, particularly those in the U.S. illegally. But
critics say voter fraud is extremely rare and contend such laws suppress the
vote and threaten to keep thousands of citizens from casting ballots.
In its decision, the EAC found that added documentation results in an overall
decrease in registration of eligible citizens — undermining the core purpose of
the National Voter Registration Act.
The agency said that 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. It also noted that stricter
documentation requirements in Kansas and Arizona have led to significant
reductions in organized voter registration programs.
But Kobach contends in the latest court filing that proof-of-citizenship is not
any less of a legal requirement simply because the agency does not think it is
necessary. He argued the EAC is legally required to include the Kansas and
Arizona instructions on the federal voter registration form.
“The EAC’s determination to the contrary was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse
of discretion, and not in accordance with law, and should therefore be set
aside,” the states’ filing said.
Kobach also challenged the authority of EAC’s acting executive director, Alice
Miller, to issue the decision because at the time the EAC had no commissioners.
The commission was waiting for Congress to approve some presidential
The dispute stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling 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 to allow state-specific requirements, he would
institute — on his own authority as Kansas secretary of state — a dual
registration procedure that limits Kansans who register with the federal form to
voting only in presidential, U.S. Senate and congressional races.