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Fast schedule set for Kan.-Ariz. voting rules suit

Published on -10/31/2013, 4:27 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A federal judge Wednesday set an expedited schedule in a lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona against a federal agency in hopes of bolstering their states' enforcement of proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters.

A hearing was scheduled for Dec. 13 on the states' request for a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form to help the states administer their requirements.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, based in Wichita, also told the commission and its top administrator that they had until Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, to file a written response to the request for such an order. A preliminary injunction would impose the change even before the lawsuit is heard.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his counterpart in Arizona, Ken Bennett, hope to force the commission to include instructions on the national voter registration form for their states' residents to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote.

The states had asked for a hearing on an injunction on or shortly after Nov. 12, but the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the commission, had suggested scheduling it as late as mid-April 2014.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said the schedule set by Melgren is fair.

"We're pleased," he said. "It establishes a reasonable time frame to present the issues to the court."

The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Kobach and other supporters of proof-of-citizenship rules contend they prevent illegal voting by noncitizens, particularly those immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

But critics say such requirements suppress voter turnout.

The national registration form requires prospective voters to sign a statement that they're citizens, and critics of the Kansas and Arizona laws contend such a step is sufficient to prevent fraud.

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