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Kris Kobach asks federal appeals court to reinstall voter ID rules in Kansas

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Kansas on Tuesday asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate rules requiring proof of U.S. citizenship from people registering to vote, the latest political battle over stringent identification laws enacted in Republican-led states ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The mandate that Kansans present passports, birth certificates or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote while obtaining driver’s licenses was challenged by a U.S. District Court judge in May.

Her ruling restored the right to vote in the Nov. 8 election for thousands of people who were asked if they wanted to register while at motor vehicle offices, but not required to submit the additional documentation. Judge Julie Robinson ordered those people to be re-registered. She said that Kansas could identify only three non-citizens who voted between 2003 and the onset of the law in 2013.

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.

“Every time a noncitizen votes, it effectively cancels out the vote of a citizen,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said in court filings ahead of Tuesday’s oral arguments.

In arguments before the Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kobach said, “We don’t need to be authorized by the federal government” to set up rules to manage state and local elections.

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Arguing for the lower court’s decision to be upheld, the American Civil Liberties Union specifically targeted a portion of Kansas law that deals with people who register to vote at motor vehicle department offices.

The ACLU argued that the requirement conflicts with a federal law from 1993 aimed at making it easier for people to register to vote by doing so when they apply for a driver’s license.

Because that law does not require people to bring more documentation than they would need to get a driver’s license, Robinson ruled that about 18,000 people whose registration had been invalidated by the state should be re-registered.

Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump, who earlier this month said that voters who opposed his candidacy are “going to vote 10 times,” is asking supporters to volunteer to be election observers at the polls. He routinely calls Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton “crooked” and has said that if he loses, it will be because the system is rigged against him.

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Led by lawyers from the ACLU, opponents of the voter identification laws have filed lawsuits in several states, successfully overturning or delaying implementation of some statutes.

Last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that voters who do not have photo identification will be able to vote in the presidential election, and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a North Carolina law requiring voters to bring a photo ID to the polls.

Seventeen states have put new voting restrictions in place since the last presidential contest, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Grant McCool)

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Saudi Arabia blames Iran for tanker attacks but does not want war

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and called on the international community to take a “decisive stand”, but said that the kingdom does not want a war in the region.

Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday, which the United States also blamed on Iran, have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Iran has denied any role in the strikes south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route and major transit route for oil.

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Two AFP journalists beaten, detained in Central African Republic

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Security forces in Central African Republic beat and detained two journalists working for French news wire Agence France-Presse (AFP) covering a banned opposition protest in the capital Bangui, the reporters said Sunday.

Charles Bouessel, 28, and Florent Vergnes, 30, said they were held for more than six hours and questioned three times on Saturday after having been manhandled by members of the Central Office for the Suppression of Banditry (OCRB).

The pair also had their equipment confiscated and a camera smashed up.

AFP condemned the incident as "unjustifiable police violence".

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Hong Kong leader apologizes as rally chokes city

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About two million protesters choked Hong Kong's streets in a powerful rebuke of a reviled extradition law, organisers said Sunday, piling pressure on the city's embattled pro-Beijing leader who apologised for causing "conflict" but refused to step down.

The show of force saw vast crowds marching for hours in tropical heat, calling for the resignation of chief executive Carrie Lam, who was forced to suspend the bill as public anger mounted.

Throngs of largely black-clad protesters snaked their way for miles through the streets to the city's parliament -- with the organisers' estimate for the crowd size doubling an already record-breaking demonstration the previous Sunday in the city of 7.3 million.

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