TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas election officials are expected to begin removing the names of more than 31,000 prospective voters from their registration records Friday in line with the state's tough voter identification law, which requires applicants to prove their citizenship before casting a ballot.
Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading advocate for rigorous voter identification requirements, directed county election officials to begin canceling the applications of prospective voters who after 90 days had not provided all required information and documents.
Since 2013, Kansas has required new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship. The latest action would be the first purge of incomplete applications.
Kobach described the culling of pending applications as just "common sense" to maintain accurate records of who is legally allowed to vote.
About 10 states require voters to provide a photo ID at the polls, but Kansas is one of only four that also requires proof of citizenship. Kobach has argued that the requirement prevents election fraud by unqualified voters, but Democrats have accused him of attempting to discourage voting by minorities, the poor and others who don't have passports or easy access to documents.
"This is something that makes Kansas and Secretary Kobach exceptional — and I don't mean that in a good way," said Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project.
Democratic attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of two young prospective voters, claiming the proof-of-citizenship rule and canceling incomplete registrations violates their constitutional rights. Kobach said Thursday evening that U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia rejected a request for an order temporarily blocking the culling of records.
Kobach said canceling the "suspended" applications does not constitute a purge of voter rolls because "it's impossible to purge someone from a list one is not on." Kobach said such records can be retrieved electronically later if need be — or people can simply file a new registration form.
"Kansas remains the state with the most secure elections in the country," Kobach said.
Kobach said officials in many counties, particularly rural counties, could finish winnowing their records within a few working days. But he said the process will take longer in more populous counties because lists of incomplete registrations will have to be examined record by record.
"The process isn't just press one button and all the records are canceled," he said.
Jamie Shew, the county clerk in Douglas County and a Democrat, said he's planning to notify people with incomplete registrations and give them 90 days to provide missing paperwork.
"What is the harm in taking the extra time?" Shew said. "What is the rush?"
More than half of the incomplete registration forms were from applicants listing no political affiliation. Twenty-three percent were for people who wanted to register as Republicans and 19 percent were for Democrats. Nearly 45 percent of the incomplete registrations came from residents under 30.
Kobach, in his second term as secretary of state, persuaded lawmakers this year to authorize his office to prosecute election fraud cases.
The only other states with proof-of-citizenship laws are Arizona, Alabama and Georgia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though the last two haven't fully put them into effect.
The Kansas lawsuit has raised eyebrows because one of the attorneys filing it is former state Rep. Paul Davis, last year's unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor.
This story has been corrected to show that nearly 45 percent of the incomplete registrations were from voters under 30, instead of 40 percent.
Associated Press writer Bill Draper in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.
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