Opponents of a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship before residents can register to vote asked a federal judge Friday to void the requirement.
During oral arguments in Kansas City, Kan., attorneys representing voters denied registration asked for summary judgment in their companion cases, rather than going to trial. They argued that evidence already on the record proves that elements of the law were unconstitutional.
The law is flawed, the lawyers said, because it doesn’t treat all eligible voters equally. It applies only to new voters, exempting all who registered before Jan. 1, 2013, from having to show proof of citizenship.
It also affects certain groups of voters unequally, the challengers said. Tens of thousands of prospective voters were denied registration when they failed to provide a birth certificate, passport or other document to prove they were citizens. More than 40 percent of them, the plaintiffs claim, were ages 18 to 29.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach countered that the law is valid. Kobach, who both proposed the law and enforces it as the state’s top election official, also argued in court that his office has been trying to help qualify people who don’t or are unable to show citizenship documents at registration.
His office searches state databases for birth and driver’s license records, he said, so applicants don’t have to produce those records themselves.
But attorneys working on behalf of opponents, including those from the American Civil Liberties Union, say Kobach’s remedy is also flawed. They said it unfairly discriminates against people who weren’t born in Kansas or don’t have Kansas driver’s licenses, such as college students from out of state.
Those records aren’t in the Kansas databases, and Kobach acknowledged that his office doesn’t try to get that information from other states.
Judge Julie Robinson will rule at a later date.