Activist says Kansas law stifled voter registration efforts
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Voter registration efforts in Kansas were devastated after the state enacted a law requiring documented proof of U.S. citizenship at the polls, the former president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas testified Wednesday in the second day of a federal trial.
Margaret Ahrens, 76, of Topeka, said the League stopped taking voter registrations immediately after the law took effect in 2013 because it didn’t want to be liable for handling voters’ personal information. Registrations resumed before the 2014 elections once the League received guidance on how to help voters, but Ahrens said workers have encountered thousands of people who couldn’t meet the law’s requirements, particularly the young, the poor and the elderly.
“We saw (the law) as a complex net of hoops and jumps for the average Kansas citizen or person we assist that was going to create barriers to their voting,” Ahrens said. “We’ve never seen such barriers as far as I know.”
The law has pitted critics who contend it is intended to make voting more difficult for certain segments of U.S. citizens against Kobach and other supporters who say it will stop what they call a major problem of noncitizens voting illegally in U.S. elections.
The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Kobach asked guards if he or an associate could bring a weapon to the federal courthouse and check it as the desk if he is not accompanied by a security detail. The request was denied. Kobach said he was concerned about security threats when he is entering or leaving the courthouse.
The American Civil Liberties Union argues the law has kept an estimated 22,000 people from voting. Kobach, a Republican candidate for governor who also was the vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s recently disbanded commission on election fraud, has strongly promoted the law while serving as Kansas secretary of state.
Before Ahrens testified Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the ACLU will be allowed to show a 45-minute video Thursday of a 2017 deposition Kobach gave earlier in the case. Kobach told The Star the video will include him discussing advice he gave President Donald Trump about documents he shared with Trump during a 2016 meeting.
Dale Ho, director for the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a Facebook post after court Tuesday that the video would show that Kobach was not trying to prevent noncitizens from voting but instead wanted to amend the National Voting Registration Act, which allows people to register at motor vehicle offices, so that he could “just go ahead and demand that everyone show their papers.” He said the video would shine light on “what is a nationwide plan here to make voting harder.”
The ACLU planned to show the video Wednesday but after Kobach’s team objected, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled it could be shown Thursday so they could to review it.
Robinson in May 2016 temporarily blocked the law’s implementation, and that ruling was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.