Trial to begin over Kansas voter ID law requiring citizenship proof

FILE PHOTO: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his office in Topeka, Kansas, U.S., on May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo FILE PHOTO: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his office in Topeka, Kansas, U.S., on May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Reuters) – A trial over a Kansas law critics call illegal that requires proof of U.S citizenship from people registering to vote is set to begin on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed in February 2016 in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argues that the state law violates the National Voter Registration Act by requiring voters who do not have a driver’s license to show documents like a birth certificate or U.S. passport for voter registration. It is one of numerous voter ID laws passed by Republican-led state legislatures in recent years.

Democrats have argued that ID laws target voters who typically support the Democratic Party, such as the young and minorities. Proponents of the measures have said they are intended to prevent voter fraud.

Each side in the case will present opening statements on Tuesday, followed by an expected five or more days of testimony. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson will hear the case.

In May 2016, Robinson temporarily blocked enforcement of the law pending outcome of the trial. The law first went into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

The chief defendant in the case, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has said the law is intended to prevent voter fraud.

A lawyer and candidate for Kansas governor, Kobach has said a lack of required documentation could allow thousands of non-Americans to vote in Kansas, potentially canceling out the votes of citizens. Kobach will serve as lead lawyer for the state.

Kobach, a Republican, served on a commission appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump to investigate voter fraud. Trump contended that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election that he won. The commission was shut down in January.

The ACLU said that the law had blocked more than 35,000 Kansans from registering to vote between 2013 and 2016.

Lawmakers in 23 states have imposed new voting restrictions since 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

This year, six states have introduced bills imposing photo identification requirements for voting, and bills have been put forward in Kentucky and New Hampshire to make existing voter identification laws more restrictive, the Center said.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Ben Klayman and Rosalba O’Brien)

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