A federal court ruled Wednesday that the two states can demand that the federal voter registration form contain citizenship proof, removing the loophole that would have curtailed enforcement of their proof-of-citizenship requirements. This is not only a big win for Arizona and Kansas on election integrity – it paves the way for other states to follow suit.
Bradley Heard, the DOJ lawyer and self-described “Voting Rights Gladiator” who argued the government’s case last month, noted on Twitter that US District Judge Eric Melgren had asked him “some tough questions.” Based on this outcome, I reckon Heard’s answers failed to satisfy the judge.
Judge Melgrin ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help Kansas and Arizona enforce their laws requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship, saying the US constitution gives states the power to set voter qualifications, and Congress has not pre-empted it.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita, Kan., ruled the commission has no legal authority to deny requests from Kansas and Arizona to add state-specific instructions to a national voter registration form. Melgren ordered the commission to immediately revise the national form.
The states and their top election officials — secretaries of state Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona, both conservative Republicans — sued the agency to force the action.
Both states require new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other documentation to prove their U.S. citizenship to election officials. The federal registration form requires only that prospective voters sign a statement declaring they are citizens.
While most voters in both states register with state forms, their officials said the availability of the federal form created a loophole as they tried to enforce the proof-of-citizenship requirements. Kobach and others argue that the requirements preclude voter fraud by preventing non-citizens from voting, particularly those in the country illegally.