Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis is representing two Kansans in a federal lawsuit seeking to block Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach from purging the rolls of suspended voters.
In response, the Secretary of State’s Office said its regulations don’t violate federal law.
The legal challenge charges Kobach’s plan to eliminate incomplete voter registrations 90 days after they’ve been filed violates federal law and due process rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The Secretary of State’s Office can begin purging incomplete registrations on Friday. About 36,000 incomplete registrations could be affected. Davis said he is seeking emergency action to stop Kobach from taking action.
“The law does not allow for a purging of voters like what Secretary Kobach is plotting to accomplish,” Davis said in a statement. “Voting is a fundamental right guaranteed by the United States Constitution and it is imperative that this right be protected.”
Davis, along with attorney Will Lawrence, is representing Douglas County residents Alder Cromwell and Cody Keener in the lawsuit. In an interview, Davis said the two men were in their late teens and early 20s and seeking to register to vote for the first time.
The lawsuit says the requirement that individuals provide proof of citizenship to register is “overly broad” and infringes on their rights to participate in elections and isn’t narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest.
The lawsuit also alleges the 90-day elimination rule violates the National Voter Registration Act.
The lawsuit says the rule will unlawfully remove Cromwell from the statewide voter registration database even though Kansas is required to place him in the database as a valid voter under the federal law.
The lawsuit asks the court to permanently halt enforcement of the Kansas citizenship requirement as well as the 90-day rule.
In response, the Secretary of State’s Office told reporters flatly the 90-day rule doesn’t violate the National Voter Registration Act and that the lawsuit doesn’t represent the reality of Kansas law.
“In order to be added to the voting rolls to begin with one must complete the registration process; if the citizen has started but not completed their registration within 90 days they will have to begin the process over again which involves filling out a half page form and providing proof of citizenship,” Craig McCullah, a spokesman for Kobach, said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes about 11 months after Gov. Sam Brownback defeated Davis in the gubernatorial election. Brownback defeated Davis by 32,096 votes — less than the number now on the suspended voter list.
McCullah drew a connection between the lawsuit and the Democratic connections of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
“It is interesting that the plaintiffs in this case are represented by Paul Davis (a former Democratic candidate for governor) and Will Lawrence (a former employee of Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley); one would think these individuals would have a better understanding of the law,” McCullah said.
But Davis rejected suggestions his pursuit of the lawsuit is connected to his campaign loss.
“I don’t believe that it would have impacted the outcome of my race and I’m not trying to have another campaign occur here,” Davis said, “but I do, having served in the Legislature and having been on the ballot for elections both for state representative and governor, I understand how important voting rights are and the fact that we need to be able to protect what clearly has been outlined as a fundamental constitutional right.”
Separately, the ACLU is engaged in an ongoing lawsuit challenging Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship voting registration requirement. In August, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis allowed the lawsuit to proceed, denying Kobach’s request for a ruling before a trial.
But Theis also allowed Kobach to keep enforcing the requirement.