Kansans who register at motor vehicle offices will appear on the regular voter rolls and get standard ballots for the upcoming general elections.
"If they call and ask if they're registered voters, they should be told that the answer is yes," says Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas. Online, those voters' status will be displayed the same as other registered voters.
It's all because Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the ACLU struck a deal Thursday allowing voters to be registered using a federal form when they get their driver's license. Previously, Kobach had insisted, based on a state law that took effect in 2013, that those voters provide documentary proof of citizenship.
Ahead of the August primaries, an estimated 17,000 voters who'd registered at the DMV were in limbo.
In July, a state board approved a rule Kobach proposed to bar those voters from participating in state and local elections while letting them vote in federal contests. A court threw out that rule four days before the elections. Still, those voters' names were kept on a separate registration list and they were given provisional ballots. Only 73 actually voted.
With the new agreement, Kubic says such confusion will not be repeated this November.
“If you register at the DMV, you are fully registered. No one will stop you, no one will turn you away," Kubic says. “You will be treated like a regular voter just like anyone else.”
Kobach has agreed to instruct county election officials to send notices to thousands of voters whose registrations had been canceled or suspended that they are now registered and qualified to vote.
In about 30 counties that use printed voter rolls, DMV registrants may appear in a supplementary poll book. The agreement between Kobach and the ACLU stipulates that poll workers be instructed to check the list carefully if a voter's name doesn't appear in the principal poll book.
Voters can register at motor vehicle offices without additional proof of citizenship through the Oct. 18 general registration deadline.
The agreement enables Kobach to avoid a hearing in which the court threatened to hold him in contempt. The ACLU says an injunction granted in May shows it was likely to prevail in the case. Kobach, despite the agreement, said in a statement that the ACLU’s argument against the validity of the proof-of-citizenship requirement was “weak at best.”
Legal proceedings will continue, after the November elections.
Amy Jeffries, based at KCUR, is editor of a statewide collaboration covering elections in Kansas. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyoverhere.