Kansas Filing Joint Lawsuit With AZ To Modify Federal Voting Laws

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Secretary of State Kris Kobach hopes that by the 2014 federal elections, Kansas and Arizona voter registration laws will be changed.

He detailed what changes he called for at a Wednesday press conference.

Kobach, along with Arizona's Secretary of State Ken Bennett, are filing a federal lawsuit Kobach says will ensure that citizens only have the right to vote in federal elections.

"In this lawsuit, we are suing the agency of the federal government, the Elections Assistance Commission, we are seeking a writ to order the commission to modify the instructions on the federal voter registration form to include proof of citizenship requirement, for both Kansas and Arizona," Kobach said.

Currently, the federal form only requires an applicant to check a box confirming citizenship.

Kobach said the one-of-a-kind lawsuit, filed in Topeka U.S. District Court, will protect voters' rights.

"Every time an alien votes, it effectively cancels out the vote of a United States citizen."

The proof of citizenship rule was put into effect for state elections in January 2013, and the American Civil Liberties Union has since filed a suit against Kobach, saying the Kansas voter ID law has put 15,000 voters in limbo because they could not provide evidence of their citizenship and their votes were not counted. Kobach said this lawsuit would override the ACLU suit.

Kobach said Kansas and Arizona have repeatedly asked the Elections Assistance Commission for the modifications to no avail and he said the suit is meant to set guidelines.

"The state has the authority to control the qualifications and to verify the qualifications of electors, so the EAC would not have the authority to flat-out tell a state 'no.'"

Currently, the EAC is operating without any commissioners, and have told Kobach they are unable to vote.

Kobach said the lawsuit includes three suggestions for the court:
1. Order the EAC to grant Kansas and Arizona's request and change the voter registration form.
2. If the court agrees the EAC is not capable of acting, the court can demand the forms be modified.
3. If the court decides that anytime Congress has an agency that is not able to act on a request a state put forward, it will be deemed unconstitutional.

Kobach said he is glad that the lawsuit has Attorney General Derek Schmidt's approval and that it won't slow down people who just want to get their driver's license.

The lawsuit, Kobach said, will be of little cost to the state, because the litigating attorneys are full-time employees of the Secretary of State Office. The lawsuit was filed in Topeka because Kansas is doing much of the work.

Nothing has changed yet, but Kobach said it is temporary.

"Until Kansas-specific instructions are added to the Federal form, Kansas will accept the Federal form without proof of citizenship to register voters in Federal elections only."

Voters will still have to present a Kansas ID to vote in state elections.