Venue for voter ID lawsuit disputed

11/6/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach and an attorney challenging a Kansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls are locked in a dispute over which court should hear the lawsuit.

TOPEKA (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach and an attorney challenging a Kansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls are locked in a dispute over which court should hear the lawsuit.

Kobach said Tuesday that he sought to have the case moved from state court to federal court because Wichita attorney Jim Lawing has raised federal election law issues on behalf of two retired northeast Kansas residents. In a court filing, Kobach's lawyer noted that the lawsuit cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case this year.

"Most voting cases do end up in federal court," said Kobach, a conservative Republican who pushed for passage of the photo ID law in 2011.

Kobach moved last week to have the case removed from Shawnee County District Court to federal court, and it has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, though no hearings have been set.

Lawing, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1998, declined to comment Tuesday about the lawsuit being moved to federal court, but a few hours later, he filed a request to have the case returned to state court.

In an accompanying memo, Lawing said he cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision only because it notes a longstanding legal principle in Kansas and other states that voters are presumed to be U.S. citizens. The memo said Kobach wasn't entitled to "misconstrue" the contents of the lawsuit to "escape the forum closest to Kansas law."

Kobach and other supporters of the voter ID law contend it will block election fraud. Critics have denounced the requirement as an attempt to suppress voter turnout among poor, minority and elderly voters.

Lawing represents Arthur Spry and Charles Hamner of Overbrook. Their votes in the November 2012 general election weren't counted because neither had a government-issued ID card with a photograph.

Hamner and Spry live in a retirement home, and neither has a driver's license or a computer. According to the lawsuit, neither has access to the birth records necessary to secure a photo ID. Lawing filed the litigation in June, then amended it in October, adding the reference to the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

State law requires voters to have a photo ID when voting in person and a driver's license number when voting by mail. Kansas also requires proof of citizenship for those registering to vote for the first time.

Without proof of identity and money to pay for such a document, a person can apply for a free State Voter Identification Document. A person born in Kansas must apply to the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics for a certified copy of a birth certificate and obtain from the agency a "no certificate letter." Kobach's office then must be given a copy of this letter.

Kobach has said he believes the Kansas law will be upheld, saying the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar challenge to an Indiana voter ID law in 2008.

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