Belenky v. Kobach

November 21, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kansas filed a lawsuit challenging Kansas' two-tiered voter registration system. The complaint 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. Under the two-tiered system, people who complied with all legal requirements for voter registration are denied the right to vote in state and local elections because of the registration form they used.

The ACLU complaint 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."

The lawsuit was filed in the Third Judicial Circuit in Topeka on behalf of Equality Kansas and individual voters. The complaint 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.

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