LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS SEEKS TO INTERVENE IN KOBACH V. EAC

Kansas, Arizona proof-of-citizenship requirements unnecessary and harmful

Washington, DC – This week the League of Women Voters of the U.S., the League of Women Voters of Arizona and the League of Women Voters of Kansas jointly sought to intervene as defendants in the case Kobach, et al v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). This case, which will be heard by the U.S. District Court in Kansas on December 12, 2013, involves the requirements in Arizona and Kansas to provide documentary proof-of-citizenship on the national mail-in voter registration application form. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court held in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., that Arizona’s requirement that voter registrants provide documentary proof-of-citizenship was preempted by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) with respect to applicants using the Federal Form. Kansas and Arizona are attempting to circumvent that decision.

“For 20 years, the NVRA has enabled citizen-led organizations like the League of Women Voters to bring more citizens into the democratic process,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national League President. “By streamlining the voter registration process, overcoming the widely divergent confusion of state laws and setting national standards for national elections, the NVRA has successfully boosted voter registration.”

“Too many people, including married and divorced women with name changes, simply don’t have easy access to documentary proof of their citizenship,” according to MacNamara. “Kansas and Arizona are erecting unnecessary barriers to their participation,” she said. 

“As the grassroots organization that led the push for NVRA, we are deeply concerned by Arizona and Kansas’ continued campaign to undermine uniform standards, represented by the national mail-in voter registration form,” MacNamara said. “Unnecessary and confusing restrictions on voter registration make it much more difficult for the League to register eligible citizens to vote. Independent registration drives by citizen groups like the League are often the only effective means for some voters to get registered and participate in our great democracy.”

Leagues in both Arizona and Kansas have been directly and adversely impacted by the documentary proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements.

“The Arizona League had to drastically reduce our efforts to register voters when the state implemented this requirement a few years ago, because we did not have portable photocopy equipment,” said Barbara Klein of the League of Women Voters of Arizona (LWVAZ). “This requirement drains our resources and harms our mission - encouraging voting and other forms of civic participation. Even when we did have access to copy equipment, our effectiveness in completing registrations was reduced as people did not carry the required documentation or were hesitant to share such personal and security-related information. Our members would volunteer many hours only to be blamed by potential voters who were angry and frustrated by these onerous requirements – all this making us unsuccessful in our mission to make voting an easy process. We’ve already won in the Supreme Court on this issue and are prepared to do what it takes to prevail again.”

“Kansans have not been well-served by this new requirement,” said Dolores Furtado, President of the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWVKS). “Early implementation of this law has been chaotic with thousands of voter registrations held in suspense while citizens try to find or obtain appropriate documentation. When we make things complex, it confuses people and means fewer people are registering and planning to vote. In the end, the League can’t do its job, citizens are left out and the fabric of our democracy is weakened.”

“The League has worked tirelessly to remove barriers from voting and advocate on behalf of the voting rights of all Americans,” MacNamara said. “The gains that the League has worked for are now being threatened by the documentary proof-of-citizenship requirements that Arizona and Kansas seek to force into the Federal Form.”

“Restrictions, such as the proof of citizenship requirement, chill, and in some cases, prevent voting,” concluded MacNamara. “We need to encourage participation by all Americans in our democracy instead of erecting new barriers to civic participation.”

The League is represented in this case by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, as well as pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP and David G. Seely of the law firm Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch, LLC.

“Our firm is pleased to be able to assist the national, Kansas, and Arizona chapters of the League of Women Voters to present their unique perspective regarding voting rights in this important matter. Also, my mother is a member of the Kansas chapter, and it is nice to be on the same team with her,” said David Seely.

 

Contact: Kelly Ceballos, kceballos@lwv.org, 202-263-1331

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The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.