Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Vote in Kansas…

By Michael Slater February 1, 2016


Sometimes, defending voting rights feels like playing Whac-a-Mole. You smack down a threat here, and it rears its ugly head over there.

In this case, the head in question belongs to Kris Kobach, perennial voting rights opponent and secretary of state of Kansas.

Project Vote was part of the landmark case in which Kobach got whacked down by the U.S. Court of Appeals, when he tried to force the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to add Kansas and Arizona’s state proof-of-citizenship requirements to the federal voter registration form.

The Court of Appeals rightfully ruled in 2014 that the NVRA preempted those draconian state laws, and added that Kobach and company “have not provided substantial evidence of noncitizens registering to vote using the Federal Form.”

Kobach’s mole-head reemerged at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, and got whacked down again when the Court refused to review the appeals court decision, leaving it in place.

Game over, right?

But Whac-a-Mole, it seems, is never over.

Today, in a bizarre turnaround, the EAC—without any public process of review—suddenly decided to do what Kobach and Co. have been asking all along. They just added proof-of-citizenship requirements to the instructions on the federal form for residents of Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama.

We don’t yet know what prompted this outrageous capitulation, but we know it’s wrong and we’re looking into it. Closely.

What we do know is that this decision is harmful. Proof-of-citizenship requirements disenfranchise voters, especially low-income Americans and people of color.

We know that the federal form, as created by the NVRA, has been used for 20 years with a simple attestation of citizenship, and there is no evidence that non-citizens are using it to register and vote.

We know that the NVRA supersedes state law, and we know the highest courts in the land have agreed with us.

We’re reviewing our legal options, so we don’t yet know what our next step will be.

But this much is clear: it’s time to play Whac-a-Mole again.

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