ACLU Wants Changes To Voter Registration Information On Kansas Secretary of State Website

Jul 19, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says wording on a state website might leave voters confused about whether they’re eligible to cast a ballot. The group wants Secretary of State Kris Kobach to make changes.

At issue is information about Kansas’ requirement that new voters prove their citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport. Court rulings say that requirement currently doesn’t apply to people who register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles or use the federal voter registration form.

The secretary of state’s office revised wording on the site after Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service raised questions about inconsistencies.

ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Doug Bonney says those revisions are not enough. The ACLU has sent Kobach a letter asking for further action.

“They’re going in the right direction, but it’s still not adequate,” says Bonney. “It’s misleading and doesn’t take into account the court orders we have from both state and federal judges.”

In particular, the ACLU has a problem with a notice on the website. It says language included in the notice is strikingly similar to wording a federal judge previously said should be stricken from the page.

In October, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ordered that this language be removed from the secretary of state’s website:

“For elections that take place after the November 8, 2016, general election, it is at this time unknown whether you will be registered to vote depending on subsequent court rulings and should provide an acceptable form of proof of citizenship to your local county election office or to the Secretary of State to ensure future registration.”

As of Wednesday, a notice on Secretary Kobach’s site included the following language:

“In future elections, it is unknown whether you will be registered to vote depending on subsequent court rulings and should provide an acceptable form of proof of citizenship to your local county election office or to the Secretary of State to ensure future registration.”

Bonney says that language is too similar to what the judge ordered removed.

“It still makes it seem like no matter how you register you have to provide proof of citizenship,” Bonney says. “That’s inconsistent with our federal court rulings.”

The ACLU also is asking for changes on forms mailed to people who have registered to vote but who have not provided a proof of citizenship document.

Samantha Poetter, a spokeswoman for Kobach’s office, says it has received the ACLU letter but has no comment.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.