Federal judge finds Kansas Secretary of State in contempt of court

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A federal judge on Wednesday found [order, pdf] Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach [official website] in contempt of court for violating a preliminary injunction regarding registering voters in his state. Chief Judge Julie A. Robinson of the US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] ordered Kobach to allow some potentially ineligible voters to remain eligible to cast a ballot, pending the outcome of the lawsuit at hand.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [materials] sued [complaint, pdf] Kobach in February 2016 [JURIST report] on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kansas [advocacy website] and individual Kansans. The suit was in filed response to thousands of Kansans who had attempted to register to vote at their local DMV office, but who were denied because of a failure to comply with the state’s citizenship documentation requirements for voter registration.

The ACLU argues that the Kansas law in question, which requires people to show proof of citizenship such as a passport or birth certificate in order to register to vote, violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 [materials] and prevented more than 35,000 Kansans from voting. In May 2016, the court granted [opinion, PDF] a preliminary injunction, preventing enforcement of the law [K.S.A. § 25-2309 text] pending the outcome of the challenge and ordering Kobach “to register for federal elections all otherwise eligible motor voter registration applicants that have been cancelled or are in suspense due solely to their failure to provide [documentary proof of citizenship].”

Kobach, a staunch proponent of voter ID laws, failed to update his website or take other steps to inform Kansans about the order, or that new voter applicants are eligible to vote without the required proof of citizenship.

“The Court is troubled by Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished…he apparently took no steps to personally ensure compliance with this directive, despite his status as chief election official for the State of Kansas,” Robinson said.

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