POLITICS
08/21/2013 05:47 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2013

Tea Party Favorites Sue Federal Government Over Voter Proof-Of-Citizenship Law

The Kansas secretary of state announced Wednesday that he and his Arizona counterpart are suing the federal government in an effort to ensure that anyone registering to vote shows proof of citizenship.

A lawsuit filed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) asks that the United States Election Assistance Commission include state-specific requirements for proof of citizenship on all federal voter registration forms in the two states, the Kansas City Star reported.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Arizona's law allowing proof of citizenship requirements on state forms unconstitutional since federal forms did not require it. But the court also said that states with proof of citizenship requirements could ask the federal government to note those requirements on federal registration forms distributed in their states.

The recent lawsuit comes days after the American Civil Liberties Union told Kobach that it intended to sue him over the state requirement, citing 15,000 voter registrations being held up due to lack of proof. But Kobach said his suit could preempt the ACLU suit since it addresses the ACLU's concerns, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reports.

Doug Bonney, the legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, told The Huffington Post that Kobach and Bennett's lawsuit was expected. At the same time, Bonney said he disagrees with Kobach's analysis that this will end his group's lawsuit to overturn the Kansas law.

Bonney said that citizens are not able to register to vote because they cannot display proof of citizenship or because of bureaucratic issues. He said laws requiring people to attest to being citizens when registering to vote have worked well to prevent fraud.

"There is no proof of people fraudulently registering to vote," Bonney said. "For scores of years, the attestation requirement has been perfectly find. This law makes it difficult for those who are citizens to vote because they cannot get properly registered."

Kobach, a tea party favorite who has written controversial immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, said that the citizenship proof is needed. "Every time an alien votes, it effectively cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen," Kobach said at the press conference on Wednesday.

Opponents of the citizenship requirement told The Huffington Post that the suit is "fear mongering" and unnecessary. Former Kansas state Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka), Kobach's most vocal critic, said that she is not surprised by the suit. At the same time she stressed that every voter fraud investigation in Kansas has turned up minimal cases in the last decade. She said the real problem is the 15,000 voter registrations being held up.

"There is no evidence out there at all," Mah told HuffPost. "Why do we have 15,000 Americans who can't vote because of the hoops they have to jump through?"

She said that since most voters register at state motor vehicle offices, which are not equipped to process birth certificates to meet the state law, voters would need to also visit an election office to complete the process.

Arizona state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) told HuffPost that he believes this is a way for Bennett to draw tea party votes for his 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary. Campbell, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, agreed with Mah that there is no voter fraud in the state.

"We've gone down this road time and time again, we hear about all this supposed fraud from the tea party all the time," he said. "Every analysis shows there is no voter fraud taking place. It is political grandstanding and fear mongering from the tea party movement."

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