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Proposed legislation would remove proof of citizenship from Kansas election law

The issue of foreign interference in U.S. politics has been hotly debated since the contentious presidential election of 2016. However, amid numerous investigations into Russian meddling, a Kansas representative has introduced legislation that would make it easier for noncitizens to vote in the state.

Democratic Rep. Brett Parker of Overland Park introduced HB 2220 on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the website The Sentinel. Among other provisions, the bill would allow Kansans to register on election day without providing proof of citizenship.

The objective is to increase voter participation, said Lauren Bonds, interim director of the ACLU of Kansas, citing higher turnout in the 19 states that have enacted similar legislation. “In fact, those states have the highest voter turnout in the nation,” she said. “Roughly 12 percent higher than states, such as Kansas, without election-day registration.”

She disagrees that this legislation would increase the risk of voter fraud. “Election day registration should alleviate any fears about voter fraud, though virtually all Kansas election officials reject the notion that such fraud is even a minor concern,” she said.

Not so fast, said Kris Kobach, former Kansas secretary of state. Kobach has long been at the forefront of election reform.

“Same-day voter registration allows anybody to show up at the polls and cast a ballot before their citizenship or their address can be verified,” he said. “This bill would move Kansas from our position as No. 1 in the nation with the most-secure elections to the bottom of the pack, with some of the least secure elections in the country. It allows people to easily drive across the state line to cast a ballot if there’s a close race in Kansas that nonresidents want to vote in.”


The bill is just the latest salvo in a long-running battle between the ACLU and Kobach. The organization won a federal lawsuit, now under appeal, to prevent Kansas counties from requiring proof of citizenship before voting. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, the passage of HB 2220 would remove proof of citizenship from state law.

The bill has yet to receive a hearing, which means it is unlikely to be voted on during the current legislative session. However, the ACLU and other proponents are willing to play the long game to enact change.

“Thoughtful time and deliberation are essential to implementing substantial changes to election operations,” Secretary of State Scott Schwab said. “We have asked lawmakers to refrain from making any major election policy changes to give us time to visit with county clerks on the impact of such policies would have on their abilities to ensure Kansas elections remain safe and secure.”

 

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