By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Reuters) – A trial over a Kansas legislation that requires proof of U.S citizenship from individuals registering to vote opened on Tuesday, with critics calling it unlawful and backers saying it was a obligatory instrument to battle fraud.

The lawsuit, filed in February 2016 within the U.S. District Court docket in Kansas Metropolis, Kansas by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argues that the state legislation violates the Nationwide Voter Registration Act by requiring voters who should not have a driver’s license to indicate paperwork corresponding to a start certificates or U.S. passport for voter registration.

It’s considered one of quite a few voter ID legal guidelines handed by Republican-led state legislatures lately.

Democrats argue that ID legal guidelines goal voters who sometimes help the Democratic Get together, such because the younger and minorities. Proponents corresponding to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach say they forestall voter fraud.

Kobach, chief defendant within the case, stated in opening statements that 129 non-U.S. residents had voted or registered to vote in Kansas since 2000.

“That’s the tip of the iceberg,” he stated in courtroom.

Proof will present as much as 18,000 different non-citizens have voted in Kansas, Kobach stated.

ACLU’s lead legal professional, Dale Ho, disputed Kobach’s numbers and stated the legislation targets a small quantity of people that may search to vote illegally.

“Implementing this legislation is like taking a bazooka to a fly, and the collateral harm has been 1000’s of voters,” Ho stated, referring to that group’s estimate that greater than 35,000 residents have been blocked from registering to vote between 2013 and 2016.

Witness testimony within the case, being heard by U.S. District Choose Julie Robinson, is anticipated to final 5 or extra days.

In Could 2016, Robinson quickly blocked enforcement of the legislation pending the trial’s consequence. It first went into impact on Jan. 1, 2013.

Kobach, a Republican candidate for Kansas governor, is serving as lead legal professional for the state.

He served on a fee appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump to analyze voter fraud. Trump contended hundreds of thousands of individuals voted illegally within the 2016 presidential election he received. The fee was shut down in January.

Lawmakers in 23 states have imposed new voting restrictions since 2010, in line with the Brennan Heart for Justice at New York College Faculty of Regulation.

This 12 months, six states have launched payments imposing photograph identification necessities for voting, and payments have been put ahead in Kentucky and New Hampshire to make current voter identification legal guidelines extra restrictive, the Heart stated.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas Metropolis, further reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Modifying by Ben Klayman, Rosalba O’Brien and Susan Thomas)

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