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Kobach Seeks Driver's License List In Voting Rights Case

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo
Kris Kobach gives testimony earlier this year.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked a federal court Thursday to order the state to release to him a list of about 21,000 people who have temporary driver's licenses in an apparent effort to bolster his claims that noncitizens are voting.

The move comes in a civil lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging a Kansas law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Kansas issues temporary driver's licenses to noncitizens who are lawfully in the U.S., and Kobach seemingly wants to compare that list with voting rolls as part of his defense case in the civil litigation.

The Kansas Department of Revenue has resisted disclosing the temporary driver's license list based on potential privacy issues, but Kobach argued in his filing that the department has indicated it would release it pursuant to a court order. The Kansas Republican contended that the Privacy Act only applies to individuals who are citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Kobach told the court the list would be used by its expert in the civil case.

He did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment Thursday.

Generally, people who hold temporary driver's licenses in Kansas are all noncitizens, Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue, said in an email. But there may be a few rare cases where a temporary license holder has naturalized into a U.S. citizen and not updated the records with the Division of Vehicles, she said.

Temporary driver's licenses in Kansas are issued to people who have valid nonimmigrant visas, a pending application for asylum, deferred action status, a temporary protected status, or a pending permanent resident status, she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said such licenses are available only to noncitizens who are legally present in the U.S., and the group has no basis to oppose Kobach obtaining access.

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU voting right's project, said in an email that it is certainly possible for someone to get a temporary driver's license, then become a naturalized citizen and then register to vote.

"So a person's mere presence in the TDL database does not mean that the person is currently a noncitizen or illegally registered to vote," Ho said.

Doug Bonney, chief counsel for the ACLU of Kansas, said that he anticipates that even if the court orders the Department of Revenue to release the listing, it will probably be covered by a protective order restricting how it is used.

Kobach separately has prosecutorial power to bring charges against noncitizens who vote, but he has not prosecuted any noncitizens for voting since the state Legislature granted him that authority in 2015.