Judge Says U.S. Must Help States Enforce Voter ID Laws

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from The New York Times,

A federal judge in Kansas on Wednesday ordered federal election authorities to help Kansas and Arizona require their voters to show proof of citizenship in state and local elections, in effect sanctioning a two-tier voter registration system that could well set a trend for other Republican-dominated states.

The judge, Eric F. Melgren of Federal District Court in Wichita, Kan., ruled that the Election Assistance Commission had no legal authority to deny requests from Kansas and Arizona to add state-specific instructions to a national voter registration form, and ordered the agency to add the language requested by the states. Kansas and Arizona had sued the agency to force the action.

The Supreme Court ruled last June that Congress has full power over federal election rules but it left open whether states could require proof of citizenship in their own elections. Federal rules require prospective voters only to sign a form attesting to their citizenship, a procedure favored by Democrats who want to increase participation of minorities and the poor in elections, but which Republican officials say fosters voter fraud.

“Because the Court finds that Congress has not pre-empted state laws requiring proof of citizenship through the National Voter Registration Act, the Court finds the decision of the EAC denying the states’ requests to be unlawful and in excess of its statutory authority” Judge Melgren wrote.

The Arizona attorney general, Tom Horne, said in an interview that, “This decision is an important victory against the Obama administration because it ensures that only U.S. citizens, and not illegals, vote in Arizona elections.”

Richard L. Hasen, an expert on voting regulations at the University of California, Irvine, wrote in a blog on Wednesday, “The upshot of this opinion, if it stands on appeal, is that states with Republican legislatures and/or Republican chief election officials are likely to require documentary proof of citizenship for voting, making it harder for Democrats to pursue a relatively simple method of voter registration.”

If the two-tier system moves forward, states that use it would make separate ballots covering only federal races for voters who do not provide proof of citizenship.

More than 10,000 Kansas voters have had their voting rights suspended for failing to provide proof of citizenship.

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