Kansas and Arizona jointly filed suit against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced on Aug. 21.
The court case by the two states is the first of its kind. The lawsuit asks the court to order the commission to modify its state-specific instructions on a federal form, the National Mail Voter Registration form. The states are also requesting a declaration for the court that a mere oath of citizenship on the form is not sufficient under Kansas and Arizona state laws.
“To refuse to modify the state-specific instructions of the federal form to conform with our states’ voter qualification and registration laws invades the province of state sovereignty reserved by the Tenth Amendment,” Kobach said in a press release.
The National Voter Registration Act requires states to accept and use the federal form to register individuals to vote, and the EAC maintains the form. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have state-specifics in the federal form.
Following changes to Kansas election law requiring individuals to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote, Kansas requested an update to its instructions on the form in August 2012. The EAC took no action. Kansas renewed its request in June 2013, and EAC staff deferred the issue.
Kansas enacted the Secure and Fair Elections Act in 2011. The law requires newly-registered voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship. Federal law requires that the federal form be used to register voters for federal voting purposes, but Kobach said in a press release, Congress has no authority to regulate state elections.
While the lawsuit is pending or until the EAC changes the Kansas-specific instructions on the federal form, voters who register using the federal form and who do not provide proof of citizenship will only be allowed to vote in federal elections in Kansas. Voters registered through the federal form can submit proof of citizenship prior to state and local election days.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Arizona has requested that Arizona-specific instructions be changed on the federal form as well.
“…Our laws require election officials to obtain information necessary to assess voter eligibility,” Bennett said. “Currently the federal form does not advise applicants to provide citizenship documents in accordance with Arizona law. It is our hope and belief that a court will issue an order to force the EAC to change the federal form to reflect Arizona’s registration requirements.”