Only 73 of more than 17,000 people who previously had been barred from voting in state and local races cast ballots in the Aug. 2 primary, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday.
The low turnout came from a pool of people who did not show proof of citizenship when they registered to vote. Kobach challenged their ability to vote throughout the summer.
Under a 2013 Kansas law that Kobach has long advocated for, new voters must prove they are U.S. citizens to vote. That law has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The nonprofit has taken to Kobach to court, including a win in July that allowed those voters to cast a full ballot in the Aug. 2 primary. Another judge’s ruling earlier this year allowed those voters to vote in the presidential election, but did not extend to their votes being counted in state and local races.
Kobach said the low turnout is likely because many have moved away from Kansas.
“So many of the names where we don’t have a completion of the proof of citizenship are people who have already moved out,” Kobach said. “Of that 17,000, a very high percentage — we don’t know exactly but we’ve done some sampling — a very large percentage are probably people who’ve already moved away from the state of Kansas or moved to a different county.”
Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks ruled in late July that the votes of 17,500 people who did not show proof of citizenship when they registered to vote could have their full ballots counted in the Aug. 2 primary.
Whether they’ll be able to vote in November is up in the air. The case is set to start up again in late September.
Kobach didn’t sound optimistic. But he noted it was possible to appeal the judge’s ruling if the court again sides with the voters and the ACLU.
“Judge Hendricks made his views pretty well known at that temporary restraining order hearing,” Kobach said. “I cannot say we are going into that second round with a high degree of confidence, but there are multiple levels of review.”
Sophia Lin Lakin, an ACLU attorney who represented the voters in court, said she’s not surprised at the low turnout. She described Kobach’s law as having a chilling effect on voters.
“If anything, this is just an obvious result of a confusing system of laws,” Lakin said. “It’s not surprising that voters don’t know whether or not they should turn out to vote, whether or not their vote will count, whether it’s even worth it.”
Thursday’s announcement came after Kobach, Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt certified the results from the August primary.
Johnson County had 20.4 percent voter turnout, and Wyandotte County 21.9 percent. Both counties trailed the statewide turnout mark of 23.5 percent.