Kansas, ACLU reach temporary agreement on voter ID

September 29, 2016 3:16 PM EDT

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law that he pushed to combat what he believes to be rampant voter fraud in the United States in his Topeka, Kansas, U.S., office May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup


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(Reuters) - The Kansas Secretary of State and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have reached a temporary agreement over the state's voter registration laws, keeping Kansas' chief elections officer from a contempt of court hearing, according to court documents filed on Thursday.

The deal between Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the ACLU comes six weeks before the U.S. presidential election.

The two sides have been at odds over a Kansas law requiring people to prove American citizenship if they want to register to vote while applying for a driver's license. Critics say this requirement disenfranchises voters, especially minorities.

The deal will allow people who registered at motor vehicle offices or with a federal form without providing citizenship documents to vote in the Nov. 8 election with a standard ballot, rather than be forced to use a provisional one, the ACLU and Kobach said in a status report filed on Thursday.

Kobach will also clarify his office's website to help voters find information more easily, according to the report filed to U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson.

Robinson had ordered Kobach, a Republican, to explain by Thursday why he should not be held in contempt for failing to obey a federal order issued in May.

That order required him to register people who applied to vote at motor vehicle offices or with a federal form without proof of citizenship.

Robinson canceled the contempt hearing scheduled for Friday, according to her own court filing, citing the ACLU and Kobach's agreement.

"Our case is ongoing, but this interim agreement is a critical victory for Kansans who want to vote in the November election. It is a shame that voters had to fight so hard to get Kris Kobach to do his job," ACLU attorney Orion Danjuma said in a statement.

Kobach said he was pleased an agreement had been reached, but criticized the ACLU.

"The ACLU's argument was weak at best. However, at this point the preparations for the November 8, 2016, general election must proceed with rules established to ensure the efficient administration of the election," he said in a statement.

Kansas' law, among the strictest voter identification statutes in the country, is defended by Republicans who say the rules are meant to prevent voter fraud.

On Tuesday, a Kansas state judge issued a separate ruling extending voting rights through the Nov. 8 election of about 17,500 people who registered to vote at motor vehicle offices.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)



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