WICHITA, Kan. — Kansas and Arizona residents can continue to register to vote for now using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed a ruling from U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren that orders the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify its federal voter registration form to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents about those states' proof-of-citizenship requirements.
Circuit Judges Carlos Lucero and Jerome Holmes granted the emergency stay sought Thursday by the commission and voting rights groups, a day after Melgren rejected a similar request to suspend his ruling during the appeal. Melgren had ordered the commission on Wednesday to carry out "without further delay" his March 19 directive.
The temporary halt is in effect until further order from the appeals court. The 10th Circuit judges gave Kansas and Arizona until Tuesday to respond to the commission's request to suspend the ruling during the appeal.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach did not return messages seeking comment left on his cellphones. EAC spokesman Bryan Whitener did not respond to an email seeking comment.
In addition to the stay, the commission also asked the court Thursday to consider its appeal of the decision itself on an expedited basis, preferably in a special session this summer.
The EAC argued in its filing that the decision will cause "considerable uncertainty" for voters in Arizona and Kansas in the run-up to the primaries in those states in August and the general election in November. Both states' elections include federal offices.
"The decision is likely to discourage some voters from registering for federal elections, particularly those who do not have ready access to a copy of their birth certificate or other qualifying documentation, and it will work a particular hardship on voter registration drives," the agency argued in its filing. "The harm to voter registration this election cycle cannot be remedied even if this Court reverses."
The commission argued that suspending Melgren's decision pending the appeal will not harm the states because it simply maintains the status quo under which they have carried out their elections for two decades.