Kansas judge extends voting rights for those registered at motor vehicle offices

September 27, 2016 6:17 PM EDT

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(Reuters) - A Kansas judge extended voting rights through the Nov. 8 election of about 17,500 people who registered to vote at motor vehicle offices, court documents showed on Tuesday in one of the cases highlighting a political battle over identification laws enacted in Republican-led states.

The ruling impacts people who submitted voter applications through Kansas motor vehicle offices but failed to provide proof of U.S. citizenship. The ruling by Judge Larry Hendricks of the third judicial court in Shawnee, Kansas, extends the temporary injunction he issued last month.

Under a state law that took effect in 2013, they were required to present a document such as a birth certificate.

The judge's ruling made on Friday said that the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, must instruct election officials to allow the around 17,500 residents to "...vote for all offices on the ballot and to count all the votes cast on that ballot."

Kobach, a Republican who has become a national leader in pushing for anti-immigration and voting changes, said on Tuesday that his office would continue with the case. Hendricks has not made a final ruling.

"The state will proceed with discovery as directed by the court. As is normal, the temporary injunction remains in place until a final order is issued by Judge Hendricks," Kobach said in a statement.

Kansas' law is one of the strictest voter identification statutes in the country, making the state a symbol for mostly Republican Party supporters who say the rules are meant to prevent voter fraud. Opponents, mostly Democrats, say they discriminate against minorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union has argued that the statute conflicts with a federal law designed to make it easier to register to vote while getting a driver's license.

Kobach asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to place on hold a decision in May by a lower-court judge ordering the state to begin registering the roughly 17,500 residents affected by the law. [nL1N19301N]

In requesting the stay, the state said the order to begin to register voters would "result in extraordinary confusion on November 8, 2016."

But the Denver-based court rejected this argument in June.

The law will not affect the state's status as a safe Republican stronghold in the presidential election being contested by Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; editing by Grant McCool)

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