TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top elections official in Kansas said Tuesday that he'll push for a change in state law to start requiring some potential voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship beginning June 15, six months earlier than expected.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The Associated Press that the proposal he'll submit to legislators Wednesday would ensure the rule applies to this year's presidential elections. The House Elections Committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning to consider sponsoring the plan.
Kansas has a proof-of-citizenship requirement for people who register to vote in the state for the first time and for people who re-register in Kansas after living outside the state, but the rule isn't scheduled to take effect until Jan. 1, 2013. Kobach said he wants to move up the effective date so that it will be in place when voter registration begins to surge ahead of the vote for president in November.
Kobach, a Republican, pushed legislators last year to impose requirement, but some legislators were wary of the idea. Kobach is a former University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who's become nationally known for helping state and local officials draft measures designed to crack down on illegal immigration, and he helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. He contends a proof-of-citizenship requirement will prevent illegal immigrants from registering to vote, but he sees the rule as part of a broader attempt to combat election fraud.
"We want the protection in place before the spike in registrations," he said.
Kobach said as soon as legislators enacted the proof-of-citizenship requirement that he'd push to have the effective date changed, but he hadn't publicly disclosed his preferred date until Tuesday.
Critics of the proof-of-citizenship rule contend it will suppress voter registration, particularly among poor and minority voters. Kobach strong disagrees, saying it hasn't proven true in other states, such as Georgia.
The Kansas law accepts 13 types of documents as proof of citizenship, including a birth certificate or a passport. A driver's license is sufficient if the state issuing it requires proof of citizenship before issuing the license. Kobach noted that if people can't provide any of the specified documents, they still can submit other evidence of their citizenship and appeal to the State Election Board.