A federal judge has struck down a Kansas law requiring voters to prove they are citizens, even after she admitted that “to register to vote, one must be a United States citizen.”
The decision comes from U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who boasts on her federal court profile of being a fourth-generation Kansan and “the first African American to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.”
Robinson not only struck down the state’s legislatively approved requirement to provide proof of citizenship, she lashed out at Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who defended the law.
She ordered Kobach to take additional continuing education classes because she claimed he did not follow her instructions.
The law was part of a nationwide effort to prevent illegal aliens from voting.
In her ruling, Robinson denigrated witnesses for the state, including the renowned Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and adjunct, non-tenured professor at the Law School of George Mason University.
Robinson belittled him with the comment, “He has never testified as an expert witness before” and “has published no peer-reviewed research on any subject.”
Another expert, Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, was dismissed by Robinson as having experience limited to “scholarship and reports that generally deal with immigration and citizenship issues, not election issues such as voter registration.”
The Kansas City Star reported the judge “ordered a halt to the state’s requirement that people provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.”
The newspaper said the decision “holds the potential to make registration easier as the August and November elections approach.”
However, Robinson acknowledged in her opinion that one cannot register to vote without being a “United States citizen.”
A woman in Robinson’s court office who declined to identify herself said Robinson would not comment.
“Under Kansas law, legally qualified voters must register to be eligible to vote, and only United States citizens over the age of 18 may register to vote,” the judge found.
The state previously used an attestation in which applicants stated: “I swear or affirm that I am a citizen of the United States and a Kansas resident, that I will be 18 years old before the next election, that if convicted of a felony, I have had my civil rights restored, that I have abandoned my former resident and/or other name, and that I have told the truth on this application.”
The law gave residents the options of 13 forms of acceptable identification, and even allowed for “another form of citizenship documentation.” But the judge found, “Driver’s license applicants in Kansas must provide proof of lawful presence when they apply for the first time.”
That process, she said, recognizes five documents that purportedly ‘”how your date of birth, identity, and lawful status as a U.S. citizen.”
Applicants have an option during the process to state they want to register to vote.
At issue were thousands of people who had started the registration process but failed to provide documentary proof of citizenship and eventually were struck from the voter rolls.
Robinson’s opinion included dozens of pages of reasons why she rejected the state’s witnesses and why she approved of the testimony of witnesses for the plaintiffs, Steven Wayne Fish, Parker Bednasek and others in the consolidated case ruling.
The judge cited one of the witnesses, saying the witness “credibly testified that there is no empirical evidence to support defendant’s claims in the in this (sic) case that noncitizen registration and voting in Kansas are largescale problems.”
The judge also cited the low incidence of voting, reportedly 1 percent, among “purported noncitizen registrations.”
“If these purported noncitizen registrations were intentional, one would expect these individuals to vote more frequently,” the judge wrote.
She praised the plaintiffs’ witnesses for “nonmisleading” testimony.
Robinson also published her own criticisms of some of the statistical testimony offered by witnesses, complaining “the sample size is too small.”
She said the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already has decided that the National Voting Rights Act obliges a state to show a substantial number of noncitizens successfully registered, after apparently lying on their attestation, for there to be a problem.
“This court found that defendant’s showing must go beyond the number of registrations that would impact the outcome of an election to be substantial.”
The judge said there was “scant evidence” of fraudulent voting by noncitizens and the state’s requirements for proof of citizenship were a “deterrent” on young voters.
Robinson ordered that elections officials state “voter registration applicants need not provide [proof of citizenship] in order to be registered to vote” and that counties shall treat “all registrants lacking [proof of citizenship] … in the same manner and in the same list as all other registered voters’ names.”
She also listed reasons to penalize Kobach: the state’s mistakes: failing to designate one person as an expert witness, failing to disclose a coming supplemental report by a witness and updating numbers in testimony.,
Kobach’s office said he will appeal.
“Judge Robinson is the first judge in the country to come to the extreme conclusion that requiring a voter to prove his citizenship is unconstitutional. Her conclusion is incorrect, and it is inconsistent with precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court,” the statement said.