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Judge Says 17,000 Kansans Can Vote in All Races, Not Just Federal Races

Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaking at the Statehouse earlier this year. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

A Shawnee County judge has ruled that 17,000 Kansans who registered to vote at the DMV will be able to vote in all races in the primary election.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach had previously put a rule in place saying those Kansans could only vote in federal races because they hadn’t provided proof of citizenship required under Kansas law. Votes they cast in state and local races would have been thrown out. Judge Larry Hendricks says Kobach doesn’t have authority to do that and he put a temporary hold on the regulation.

Kobach says this decision weakens the state’s voter registration law.

“What today’s ruling does is it essentially knocks a huge loophole in that law for about 17,000 people who will not have to provide proof of citizenship like the rest of us,” says Kobach.

Kobach says there's not enough time to appeal the ruling before Election Day on Tuesday.

Sophia Lakin, one of the ACLU attorneys who argued the case today, says she’s “extremely relieved” for the Kansans who will now be able to cast ballots in all races.

Voting has already been underway in Kansas for more than two weeks. Judge Hendricks says there is nothing he could do to help voters who have already cast ballots with the understanding that they could only vote in federal races. Hendricks says there's still much at stake for affected Kansans who haven't yet voted.

"Losing one’s vote is an irreparable harm in my opinion and in my ruling here today,” says Hendricks. "They will never be able to recast their votes."

Kobach argues that the state's voter registration rules prevent noncitizens from voting. He says when a noncitizen votes it cancels out the ballot of a legal voter.

A federal judge ruled earlier this year that people who registered at the DMV, but didn’t prove their citizenship, should be allowed to vote, at least in federal races. Kobach's rule was a response to that. He says it complied with the federal judge while still enforcing Kansas voter registration laws.

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