Remember back in the day when Congress passed the “motor voter” law, which gave all American-made cars the right to vote, or at least required states to provide voter registration to people getting drivers’ licenses? Passed in 1993, it was one of those crazy attempts to increase voter participation by making it easier for people to vote, which is a terrible thing of course because then the wrong sort of people might start voting.
Happily, creative Republicans like Kansas secretary of state, walking vomit stain Kris Kobach, convinced the state legislature that there were millions of fraudsters getting fraudulently registered, so Kansas added a requirement that people also provide proof of citizenship to be registered. This created a bit of a problem, since the 1993 National Voter Registration Act only requires people to affirm that they’re citizens, with the possibility of being prosecuted for perjury if they fib about that. And now the ACLU is suing Kansas, claiming that the proof-of-citizenship requirement violates federal law and is nothing more than a double-plus ungood attempt to suppress voting. The ACLU says over 30,000 possible voters have been blocked from registering by the Kansas law.
“What’s happening in Kansas is outrageous,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Thousands of Kansans, including military veterans who have valiantly served our country, are blocked from voting by unnecessary bureaucratic roadblocks imposed by state officials. These shameful actions have made Kansas an epicenter of voter suppression. We say no more barriers. Let people vote.”
We don’t know about Kansas being the “epicenter of voter suppression” — there are so many contenders, especially North Carolina — but Kansas really is pretty stinky. Basically, the state lets people fill out the federal voter registration form at the DMV, but it still requires citizenship documentation for the registration to be considered complete. So many people end up thinking they’ve registered, only to find out later that they’ve been purged from the voter rolls for not “completing” the process with an additional trip to the courthouse or DMV with a copy of their birth certificate or passport or other documentation.
The ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of six Kansans who registered at DMV offices but weren’t put on the registration rolls. Kobach says it’s all a big misunderstanding because those big sillies at the ACLU and their dumb clients foolishly think that completing a registration form actually means you’re registered to vote, when there are still many important hoops to jump through:
Mr. Kobach said the A.C.L.U. was misinterpreting federal law, which requires only that states accept voter registration applications at the Department of Motor Vehicles — not that those applications have to be confirmed at that time.
“The state has every right to verify that the person is eligible to vote before completing the person’s registration,” said Mr. Kobach[.]
Under Kansas’s insane “two tier” system, if you register with the federal form from the DMV, you can vote in federal elections, but you’re not really fully truly cross-you-heart-and-hope-to-move-to-Colorado registered to vote for state and local elections until you provide that proof of citizenship. Such partial registrations are called “in suspense,” because voters are like a character in a Hitchcock movie, not knowing whether they can vote before the knife comes slashing down. About 35,000 registrations have been in suspense since the law took effect in 2013. The ACLU suit is challenging that bit of nonsense, as well as Kobach’s policy of simply throwing out any registration forms if they remain “in suspense” over 90 days, which the ACLU says has purged at least 12,000 people from the system. Kobach’s reply was some absolutely gorgeous doublespeak:
Mr. Kobach said it was misleading to say that registrations were being purged because the people whose voter applications were in suspense had never officially been registered to vote.
Nothing to see here, folks — you can’t disenfranchise someone who hasn’t jumped through all the hoops, now can you? Despite there being virtually zero evidence of voting fraud, Kobach insists he’s only keeping the system clean, so that riffraff and dangerous widows don’t do fraud all over Kansas. To make matters worse, even if you have all your papers together, Kansas’s system is still such a mess that three of the ACLU plaintiffs had their registration put on the suspended list, even though they’d provided proof of citizenship. Kobach says that was merely an early “glitch” in the system, and everything’s fine now, no problem, and you wouldn’t want a bunch of imaginary fraudulent voters voting, now would you? Especially not the Democratic ones.