The decision to become plaintiffs in a suit against the Kansas documentary proof of citizenship law, devised by the Kansas Secretary of State and passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2011, drew the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWVK) into a historical fight for democracy.
"But it was not the first time," noted current LWVKco-presidents, Cille King and Teresa Briggs. "The League has long fought to gain, protect, and empower the vote for all citizens." Nearly 100 years ago, the very first local League of Women Voters met in Wichita, directly after the close of the Suffragist convention in Chicago after the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
Since that time League members, both women and men on the local, state, and national level,have helped citizens access the vote, conducted candidate forums and debates, and regularly studied and reached consensus on public policy issues.
"But stepping into a lawsuit in Kansas against the most suppressive voter laws in the nation was a frightening leap of faith in the the rule of law," said King.
Judge Robinson gave a preliminary injunction in June 2016, and Kansans were able to fully register to vote when at the DMV without providing documentary proof of citizenship. As a result of a preliminary injunction in another lawsuit brought by the League, League of Women Voters v. Newby, Kansans were also able to fully register to vote with the Federal Voter Registration form without providing documentary proof of citizenship. Judge Robinson's ruling on Monday--which found that the documentary proof of citizenship requirement violates both federal law and the U.S. Constitution--makes her preliminary injunction permanent and strikes down the documentary proof of citizenship requirement entirely.
"Filing a lawsuit was our last resort," said immediate past co-president Marge Ahrens, "against what we knew first hand to be harmful to our very mission as a volunteer organization.” The Kansas League was once again making history in regard to the vote, though unknowingly. When Ms. Ahrens was asked to testify on behalf of the LWVK, the League volunteer members were on the ground struggling to help potential voters comply with the multiple steps needed to fulfill the law’s requirements.
"Our history, our principles, and our passion for all citizens to access the vote, to want to vote, to be informed about their vote," said Ms. Ahrens, "was waiting to be told in court."
Ms. Ahrens said that as she prepared to tell it, she had no idea of the history the League was making with Fish/League of Women Voters of Kansas v. Kobach, which is the first case in the nation in which the existence and extent of voter fraud and non-citizens voting was tested at trial.
"What a privilege to represent this organization, the League of Women Voters, long believing in our mission to empower every voter and strengthen our democracy," said Ms. Ahrens. "And to be represented with the skill, depth and passion of our extraordinary ACLU legal team.”
Contact: Teresa Briggs and Cille King, Co-Presidents League of Women Voters of Kansas | 785-234-5152
Local Leagues throughout Kansas are reaching out to “purged” voters following changes to the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement on state voter registration forms. League volunteers will educate effected registrants to ensure that every person who registers to vote in Kansas is able to vote.