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Kansas Committee Of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission To Hold Hearings on State Voter ID Law

US Dept. of Justice

One of the strictest voter ID laws in the country will be under the microscope when the Kansas Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission holds hearings to determine whether the law has suppressed voter turnout in some communities.

The Civil Rights Commission has advisory committees in all 50 states and the Kansas committee voted Tuesday to move forward with its investigation.

"Some of the initial information with the respect to the law is that it disproportionately impacts certain age groups and certain racial categorizations," says Elizabeth Kronk who chairs the Kansas committee. Kronk is a law professor at the University of Kansas.

Last year the General Accounting Officereleased a report saying the voter ID law was responsible for a larger dip in Kansas voter turnout between 2008 and 2012, when compared to other states.

The GAO had the same result for a tougher voter ID law in Tennessee. "GAO's analysis suggests that the turnout decreases in Kansas and Tennessee beyond decreases in the comparison states were attributable to changes in those two states' voter ID requirements," the report said.

While Kronk says the committee will make no judgments on the law until hearings are held early next year, she says there's sufficient information now to move forward.

"It is fair to say the committee has acknowledged this is an area of controversy," she says.

Estimated falloff among black voters was nearly 4 percent greater than it was among whites in Kansas, according to the GAO.

When the report was released last October, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach criticized its methodology saying there was no statewide office up for grabs in Kansas in 2012 so turnout would naturally be down.

The committee voted to ask Kobach, the driving force behind passing the voter ID law, to testify at its hearings in early 2016. Kobach's office has yet to respond with comment.

The state committee can recommend that the full U.S. Civil Rights Commission in Washington take up the case.

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