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TOPEKA, Kan. – The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit challenging Kansas' two-tiered voter registration system. The petition charges that eligible voters are being divided into separate and unequal classes, in violation of the Kansas Constitution's equal protection guarantees.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that states could not impose a documentary proof-of-citizenship requirement for those who register to vote using the federal form. Voters declare under penalty of perjury that they are citizens when they register using the federal form.
Kansas has implemented a dual registration system to prevent people who use the federal form from voting in state and local elections unless they show additional documentary proof of citizenship. Voter registration for thousands of Kansans is already being held in "suspense" – essentially limbo – because of the new documentation requirements. The ACLU petition charges that state officials have, without statutory authority, "unilaterally established an unprecedented and unlawful voter registration system that divides registered voters in Kansas into two separate and unequal classes, with vastly different rights and privileges…based on nothing more than the method of registration that a voter uses."
"It makes absolutely no sense that someone would be qualified to vote for president, but not for governor," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. "This case is about people who have done everything they are supposed to do – complied with all legal requirements for voter registration – but are arbitrarily being denied the right to vote in state and local elections simply because of the form they used."
The lawsuit, Belenky v. Kobach, was filed in the Third Judicial District in Topeka on behalf of Equality Kansas and individual voters. The petition charges the dual system not only deprives Kansans of voting in state and local elections, but also denies them election-related rights such as signing petitions.
"State officials are putting up one roadblock after the next to make it harder for Kansans to vote," said Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas. "The people of Kansas deserve better, which means ending these obstructionist, unconstitutional practices once and for all."