Judge: US election official violated law in voter form case

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A former high-ranking election official violated federal law in 2016 when he granted requests by Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to modify the national voter registration form to require documentary proof of citizenship in those states, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon threw out the contested decisions made by Brian Newby, then-executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, an independent federal agency, after finding on Thursday that Newby failed to determine whether the proposed requirements were necessary to register to vote.

The long-delayed ruling by Leon has little practical effect since a federal appeals court had earlier granted a preliminary injunction in the case, blocking the enforcement of the requirement.

In a separate case, the Kansas law requiring documentary proof of citizenship was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. 

Leon remanded the requests for the changes sought by Georgia and Alabama to the Election Assistance Commission to reconsider in a manner consistent with his ruling, should those states continue to seek state-specific instructions on the form.

A requirement that prospective voters provide documents — such as a birth certificate or U.S. passport — in order to register to vote has long been championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission. Kobach was a leading source for Trump’s claim that millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.

The courts in other cases have sided with critics who contend the proof-of-citizenship requirement denied voting rights to thousands of Kansas citizens while doing little or nothing to stop fraud.

Kobach, who had intervened in the lawsuit over the national voter registration form, is running for Kansas attorney general in 2022.

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