Dispute Over Voter Identification Rights To Be Considered By Federal Court

August 25, 2014

A federal appeals court in Denver is considering whether Arizona and Kansas can force federal officials to change a national voter registration form to help them impose their proof-of-citizenship requirements.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments in the case Monday. It hinges on whether the federal government or the states have the ultimate authority to regulate voter registration. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach maintains the U.S. Constitution leaves the authority to regulate voting to the states.

“It’s become a growing problem for aliens to become registered and in many of those they go on to vote and every time an alien votes it effectively cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen," Kobach said.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has appealed a lower court order requiring it to modify a federal form to include instructions forcing Kansas and Arizona residents to provide citizenship documentation. But, Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York says that would impose a hardship, mainly on minority voters.

“If Kansas and Arizona win it’ll be much harder for many people to register," Weiser said.

Kobach disputes the contention the citizenship requirement would adversely affect minorities. More than a dozen voting-rights groups have either joined the lawsuit or filed friend-of-the-court briefs.