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A week before Kobach's defeat, Kansas asked the Supreme Court to revive his voter law

Bryan Lowry, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Kansas quietly filed its petition last week with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate Kris Kobach's signature policy requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab's office announced in June their plans to file the petition with the high court after a federal judge struck down the law in 2018. That decision was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this year.

Their offices made no formal announcement when they officially filed the petition late last month.

It landed one week before Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who crafted the policy and handled its legal defense before the lower court, lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by double digits to Rep. Roger Marshall.

Dale Ho, the lead attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union on the case, noted the irony of the timing.

"Last night, the people of Kansas turned the page on Kris Kobach's sorry legacy of voter suppression and xenophobia. It's a shame that Secretary of State Schwab would cling to it," Ho said in an email.

The law required that new voters provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, in order to register. Thousands of prospective voters of both parties fell into suspended status after the law took effect in 2013. The scant number of noncitizen registrants Kobach was able to identify led the appeals court to strike down the law five years later.

 

In its filing with the Supreme Court, Schmidt's office argued that the "proper focus is not on the number of applicants who were not registered, but on the actual burden the proof of citizenship law imposes."

Even if the Supreme Court agrees to hear Kansas' petition, it would be unlikely to rule on the case before the 2020 election.

Both Schwab and Schmidt are Republicans. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly voted for the policy as a member of the Kansas Legislature, but she has since disavowed her support and called for the litigation to end.

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