Court won’t revive Kansas voter registration ID law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Kansas that sought to revive a law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. A federal appeals court had declared the law unconstitutional.

Kansas had been the only state to require people to show a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport when applying to register to vote. The issue is distinct from state laws that call for people to produce driver licenses or other photo IDs to cast a vote in person.

The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission. Kobach was a leading source for Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.

Roughly 30,000 people were prevented from registering to vote during the three years the law was in effect, and the state’s own expert estimated that almost all of those were U.S. citizens who were eligible to vote.

Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project who argued the case, said the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case will “finally close this chapter on Kris Kobach’s sorry legacy of voter suppression.”

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who supported the law when he was in the state Legislature, pursued the Supreme Court appeal over the objection of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional in April, affirming a trial court ruling. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who used to be a 10th Circuit judge, sat out the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case.

Schwab said Monday he was hoping for some guidance from the nation’s highest court on how far the state can go in imposing a proof-of-citizenship requirement and suggested it would take another lawsuit to get it.

But he downplayed the ruling’s practical effect on the administration of elections in Kansas.

“We don’t have massive voter fraud in the state of Kansas. I think we found that out during this election,” he told reporters after a meeting of the state’s presidential electors at the Statehouse. “As it relates to the outcome, the way we do elections going forward, it’s not going to change a lot, but it does limit what states can do.”

Justices decline to hear Indiana birth certificate case

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to take up an Indiana case seeking to reverse a lower court’s ruling that allows both members of same-sex couples in the state to be listed as parents on the birth certificates of their children.

The high court turned aside without comment a petition that Indiana’s attorney general, Curtis Hill, filed with the court last month. Hill had argued for the justices to reverse a January decision by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed a ruling by Indiana’s federal southern district court that said Indiana laws limiting who can be called a parent of a child were unconstitutional.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, the attorney for the plaintiffs who challenged Indiana’s birth records law, said “we’re delighted” about the high court’s decision not to hear the case.

“It’s a major victory that is going to keep the same-sex families together and the children born to these marriages will have two parents to love and protect them,” she told The Indianapolis Star.

The original case involved Ashlee and Ruby Henderson, a gay married couple from Lafayette who filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 challenging Indiana’s birth records law.

They sued the state health commissioner and Tippecanoe County officials because county officials would not list both of them as parents on the birth certificate of their son, who Ruby conceived through artificial insemination.

Seven additional couples joined the suit as plaintiffs after Indiana successfully appealed the case to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, which found that requiring both women in a same-sex marriage to be listed as parents would prevent any discrimination.

In January’s decision, the appeals court found that under Indiana law, “a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father, so that both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certi?cate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock.”

“There’s no similar presumption with respect to an all-female married couple — or for that matter an all-male married couple,” the judges wrote.

In his petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hill had argued that upholding the lower court’s decision would violate common sense and throw into jeopardy parental rights based on biology.

Indiana’s solicitor general, Tom Fisher, said Monday in a statement to WXIN-TV that “we are disappointed the Court declined to take up the case.”

Court sides with New Mexico in Pecos River fight

By Susan Montoya Bryan
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with New Mexico in a fight with Texas over the Pecos River, issuing a decision that involves evaporation and New Mexico’s obligations to deliver water to its southern neighbor as part of a decades-old water-sharing compact.

The court decision found that the river master overseeing the compact correctly calculated that New Mexico should get credit for floodwater it stored in 2014. Even though it had requested that the water be stored upstream, Texas argued that a significant amount of water had evaporated while in storage and as a result New Mexico didn’t meet its obligations.

The dispute over how to account for the evaporated water ended up before the Supreme Court after Texas filed a motion seeking a review the river master’s decision.

In denying Texas’ motion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the arguments presented by the Lone Star state disregarded the history of proceedings related to the Pecos River and that both states previously agreed to regulations that meant New Mexico would not be held accountable for evaporative losses.

Kavanaugh also noted that because of the irregular water levels on the Pecos, the compact does not require a specific amount of water to be guaranteed to Texas. Rather, the amount is based on the river’s present conditions.

New Mexico and Texas also are feuding over management of the Rio Grande — one of the region’s other major rivers — in a separate case pending before the Supreme Court. The outcomes of these interstate battles over water supplies are becoming even more important as New Mexico, West Texas and the rest of the American Southwest remain locked in drought.

In a nod to the region’s longstanding issues with water, the latest court decision offered some history about the Pecos River, saying the dry landscape has left farmers and ranchers in both states dependent on the waterway.

New Mexico ordinarily receives credit only for water that actually makes its way to Texas. There are exceptions, such as when water is stored upstream at Texas’s request.

The court decision points to the river master’s manual, which spells out that New Mexico’s delivery obligation should be reduced by the amount of reservoir losses attributable to storage.

While the states negotiated for years over how to account for evaporation losses, talks eventually broke down as they were never able to reach an agreement.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and the state’s top water official, State Engineer John D’Antonio, both said they were pleased with the court’s decision.

D’Antonio said the state intended to continue meeting its obligations to Texas and had a strong credit under the compact.