TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas election officials must throw out potentially thousands of votes in state and local races from people who’ve registered without providing proof of their U.S. citizenship under a new, temporary rule approved Tuesday by a state board.
The State Rules and Regulations Board’s decision came the day before Kansas opens advance balloting for its Aug. 2 primary. The rule will remain in effect through Nov. 8, the date of the general election.
The rule applies to new Kansas voters who register at state motor vehicle offices but don’t comply with a 2013 state law requiring them to provide citizenship papers. About 17,000 people were in that category as of last week, but as many as 50,000 prospective voters could be affected in the November election.
There is no formal process for appealing the board’s decision, though critics could file a state court challenge.
The rule was sought by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican who’s championed the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement as an anti-election fraud measure. A federal judge ruled in May that under federal law, people who register at motor vehicle offices are eligible to cast ballots in federal races, whether they’ve met the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement.
Under the rule, such voters will receive provisional ballots, which will be set aside at polling places to be examined later. County election officials will count their votes for president, U.S. Senate and Congress but not their votes in state and local races or local ballot questions.
“This is the only logical and reasonable way to go forward in the present circumstance,” said Bryan Brown, an attorney for the secretary of state’s office, representing Kobach on the five-member board.
Critics of proof-of-citizenship requirements say the rules suppress voter turnout — particularly among young and minority voters — far more than they combat fraud. The Kansas law has been at the center of multiple lawsuits, including the one prompting U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson’s ruling in May.
State Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, called the process “appalling” and accused the secretary of state’s office of “chicanery.”
“These people are trying to interfere in a highly competitive election,” Ward said after Tuesday’s meeting.
But Bryan Caskey, state elections director, said county officials are notifying affected voters by mail, and they have a chance to submit citizenship papers before each election.
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