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Kris Kobacs's Two-Tier Vote Suppression Regime in Kansas: The View from the Roasterie XIX: October 25, 2013: Noted

John Milburn: The Latest Voter Suppression Fad: Two Tiers:

Officials in Arizona and Kansas are making preparations for elections with two categories of voters. There will be those who provided proof of citizenship when they registered to vote, and will therefore be able to vote in all local, state, and federal elections. And then there will be those who did not provide proof of citizenship when they registered. Those people will only be able to vote in federal contests--if at all.

In both states, the preparations underway are reactions to the Supreme Court's June ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the legal battle over Arizona's 2004 voter identification law, known as Proposition 200. While the headlines in June painted the ruling as a blow to Proposition 200, officials in both Arizona and Kansas have chosen to focus on the leeway the Supreme Court left them. Kansas State Election Director Brad Bryant laid out the argument in an email he sent to county election officers at the end of July.... In Kansas, whose Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R), has been at the forefront of the voter ID movement, that system is already up and running.

Some context: state law in Kansas allows any qualified voter to register using either the state's voter registration form or the national mail registration form, known as the "federal form." All 50 states and the District of Columbia have state-specific instructions on the federal form. But Kansas has not been able to get the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the agency which maintains the federal form, to change the Kansas-specific instructions to include proof-of-citizenship language. (More on the EAC issue later.) As a result, because Kansas can't just ignore the federal forms, a Kansan who uses the federal form to register without a citizenship document will be allowed to vote in federal elections. (Kansas' secretary of state's office was unable to provide TPM with the statewide number of voters who have registered using a federal form, but Bryant's July email states that "few" had been submitted to county officers over the years.)

Kansas officials have envisioned four registration scenarios: 1) Individuals who use the Kansas form and submit a citizenship document (eligible to vote in all elections); 2) Individuals who use the Kansas form and do not submit a citizenship document (not eligible to vote in any elections); 3) Individuals who use the federal form and submit a citizenship document (eligible to vote in all elections); and 4) Individuals who use the federal form and do not submit a citizenship document (eligible to vote only in federal elections.)

"It's very frustrating to watch a public official go about voter suppression under the color of law," Kansas state Rep. Jim Ward (D), an opponent of voter ID, told TPM in an interview on Monday. "I just think it's reprehensible. It will create chaos on election day. ... There's a lot of advocacy groups now talking about registering people with the federal form."