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Judge Rejects Kobach’s Request For Delay In Voting Rights Case

Courtesy U.S. Department of Justice

While giving him two more weeks to comply, a federal judge let Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach know that she would brook no further delays in carrying out her order to restore 18,000 Kansas residents to the voter rolls.

In a harshly worded order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson rejected Kobach’s claim that compliance with the court’s May 17 order would cause voter confusion and lead to “irreparable harm.”

Kobach did not return a call seeking comment.

Robinson’s latest ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters of Kansas on behalf of several individual plaintiffs challenging Kansas’ policy of requiring people who register to vote at DMV offices to provide proof of citizenship.

Her earlier order found that the requirement violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), commonly known as the “motor-voter” law, which requires “only the minimum amount of information” to determine voter eligibility for federal elections.  

The order gave Kobach two weeks to restore the voting rights of 18,000 Kansas residents who had been kicked off the voter rolls. Kobach, arguing the administrative burden of compliance in that time frame would cause irreparable harm, urged a delay pending an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.  

Betraying growing impatience, Robinson noted that Kobach had chosen to wait a full week before filing his notice of appeal.

“She was quite direct,” said Doug Bonney, a lawyer with the ACLU of Kansas.

Robinson said the court record showed that during the 10-year period before Jan. 1, 2013, when the proof of citizenship law took effect, only 30 noncitizens had registered to vote and only three of those had actually cast votes.

Given that record, she wrote, “the Court cannot find that the public interest in enforcing the State’s citizenship requirement is strong enough to counterbalance the public’s strong interest in ensuring that thousands of qualified voters can successfully exercise their right to register to vote and cast a ballot in federal elections.”

Robinson had previously given Kobach until June 1 to restore disenfranchised voters to the voting rolls. In her latest order, she extended the time for another two weeks in recognition that compliance would entail some administrative burdens.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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