Back in August, we reported that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was considering a novel voter suppression idea. Kobach has been struggling to implement a new law that he backed requiring voters to present proof of citizenship when registering to vote. As a result of the law, over 17,000 Kansans who registered to vote using a federal form (which doesn’t require proof of citizenship) or used a state form but couldn’t dig up a birth certificate have had their voter registration suspended.
Kobach said that this mass disenfranchisement wasn’t a “major problem,” but he did have a proposal to deal with it: Create two classes of voters, some who are allowed to vote only in federal elections and others who are allowed to vote in both state and federal elections.
Now, the Wichita Eagle reports, Kobach is moving ahead with his plan. The Eagle obtained a July 31 memo from Kobach’s office to county elections officials instructing them to track which voter registration applicants apply using a federal form and which submit an acceptable proof of citizenship.
The Eagle explains that if the plan moves forward, Kansas voters will be sorted into three categories, each with separate voting rights. Those who provide proof of citizenship with either a state or federal form will be allowed to vote in all elections. Those who register with a federal form and don’t provide supplemental citizenship proof will be allowed to vote just in federal elections. Meanwhile, Kansans who use the state voter registration form but don’t provide proof of citizenship will remain unable to vote at all.
Kobach claims that this byzantine scheme is just a “contingency plan” in case he fails in suing the federal government to add extra requirements to federal voter registration forms used in Kansas.
Kobach… confirmed he’s planning for elections with different ballots for different voters, depending on whether they register under federal or state rules. He said it’s “merely a contingency plan” in case he loses a lawsuit seeking to make federal officials adopt Kansas rules for voters in Kansas.
The plan creates three classes of registered voters, according to the Legislative Research report provided to Ward on Thursday:
- Voters using either the federal or Kansas form and providing state-required documents proving their citizenship would be able to vote in all federal, state and local elections.
- Voters who use the federal form but don’t provide citizenship documents will be allowed to vote only for candidates running for president, vice president and Congress.
- Registrants who file a Kansas form but don’t provide citizenship documents will be put in suspension and won’t be allowed to vote in any election.
Unsurprisingly, this plan is already causing a headache among county elections officials, reports the Eagle:
Sherman County Clerk Janet Rumpel…said she has asked the Secretary of State’s Office for clarification on whether she would have to prepare two sets of ballots for primary and general elections every two years on the chance somebody files a federal registration form – which she has never actually seen.
“It would be a nightmare for us,” she said.
But, as usual, Kobach seems unfazed.
The Eagle reports that “sidewalk and door-to-door registration drives ground to a halt” when the proof-of-citizenship requirement came into effect, “because of the impracticality of getting the needed documents to complete the process.” Democratic state representative Jim Ward recounted a discussion he had with Kobach about the difficulty of holding voter registration drives under the new law. Kobach reportedly replied that people holding voter registration drives should just “carry a copy machine” with them:
Ward said it’s Kobach who’s doing voters a disservice by demanding documents that most people don’t have close at hand and that Congress and the Supreme Court says they don’t have to provide.
He said he once asked Kobach how to collect the documents in a registration drive and Kobach’s response was “carry a copy machine with you.”
“It was a snarky response, but I think it tells you his attitude toward the right to vote,” Ward said.