Kris Kobach, Kansas’s voter-suppressing Secretary of State, has hit the big time as co-chair (along with Mike Pence) of Donald Trump’s Find The Five Million Illegals Who Voted For Hillary Commission. Kobach is already infamous for making Kansas one of the hardest states in which to register to vote, having pushed a law requiring voters to document at registration that they’re U.S. citizens. By coincidence, that law happens to make it less likely for younger and minority voters to register, building in an electoral advantage in Kansas for older white Republicans. Now he wants to bring his ideas for voter suppression to the national level, and Thursday sent a letter to every state asking them to provide all their voter records to the commission.
Gee, why would anyone be worried about that? It’s all publicly available information of one form or another, and Kobach simply wants the best data possible, he told the Kansas City Star:
“The idea is to have the best data possible,” Kobach said. “The purpose of the commission is to quantify different forms of voter fraud and registration fraud and offer solutions. And so you have to have this data in order to do any meaningful research.”
Kobach said the commission would cross-reference the data provided by states against federal databases to determine the number of non-citizens registered in each state, dead people still on the voter rolls and people registered in more than one jurisdiction.
Of course, it’s not a crime to be registered in more than one location — it’s usually the result of people moving away and not thinking to notify the previous jurisdiction — and Kobach has a long history of making overblown claims about the extent of voting fraud based on selective data. That was enough for officials in several states to announce their refusal to play along with what looks like a national attempt to suppress voting. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said nope in a statement Thursday afternoon:
I have no intention of honoring this request […] Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that while she would share “publicly available information” with the commission, she would also ensure the “privacy of voters is honored by withholding protected data.” As for Kobach, she was a tad skeptical, adding that he
“has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas” and that “given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission.”
In a statement, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Hell No, albeit a bit more diplomatically than that:
It looks like Kobach’s reputation for electoral ratfuckery precedes him, huh? Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, tweeted yesterday, “The letter @KrisKobach1787 is sending to states confirms: Pence and Kobach are laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple” and also warned, “The integrity of our elections is indeed under assault – just not in the way Trump claims. Pay attention to this.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which is chaired by Ms. Gupta, issued a statement noting that the same day Kobach issued his letter, the Department of Justice also asked states covered by the National Voter Registration Act to tell DOJ how they maintain their voter registration lists. They also caution that the Pence-Kobach commission is likely up to no good:*
It is not normal for the Department of Justice to ask for voting data from all states covered by the National Voter Registration Act. It’s likely that this is instead the beginning of an effort to force unwarranted voter purges. The fact that the Justice Department letter coincides with the Kobach letter should cause voters serious concern. Kris Kobach is a man with an agenda and a history of discriminatory and regressive views on voting rights. We are particularly concerned that these calls for information may be used to wrongly remove eligible Black and Hispanic voters from the rolls through the problematic process known as Crosscheck.
If you haven’t read this New York Times profile of Kobach and this Rolling Stone piece on the incredibly sketchy Crosscheck voter data system Kobach set up (and which has been used to selectively challenge the registrations of likely Democrats), those are your homework for the weekend. Stop whining, they’re good. Consider the NYT account of Kobach’s bombshell announcement prior to the 2010 election, when he announced there were nearly 2000 dead voters still on the rolls in Kansas:
“Every one of those 1,966 identities is an opportunity for voter fraud waiting to happen,” he said. Kobach singled out one name, Alfred K. Brewer, who was born in 1900 and died in 1996, but was in fact listed as having voted just that year. “An Alfred K. Brewer voted in the 2010 primary election,” Kobach said. “Is it the same one? We are still trying to achieve confirmation of this, but it certainly seems like a very real possibility.”
Well, yes, Alfred K. Brewer did vote in 2010. And the Wichita Eagle found him, alive and well and doing yard work, and more than a little amused: “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” he told the paper. He was 78 years old, but when he first registered to vote, Kansas didn’t ask for birth dates on its forms, so when records were computerized, the blank got replaced with a false birth year of 1900. His father, who had the same name, did die in 1996. But screw details, there are DEAD PEOPLE VOTING.
Kobach has relied on similarly sloppy data to declare there must be millions of undocumented immigrants not just registered, but actually voting in U.S. elections. But even after the Kansas legislature gave the secretary of state the power — unique in the nation — to directly prosecute people for voter fraud in 2015, he’s only won nine convictions, mostly against people over the age of 60 who were confused about registration rules and had accidentally voted in two locations. He finally did convict one (1) noncitizen of illegally voting — a guy from Peru whose illegal registration was discovered after he became a naturalized citizen and he registered again to vote. Obviously, one of MILLIONS.
In another example, Kobach recently touted a completely bogus claim that 18,000 noncitizens are definitely registered to vote in Kansas. The “researcher” who came up with the claim, Jesse Richman (who’s also responsible for a wingnut-beloved but utterly invalid 2014 study claiming “6.4% of of noncitizens voted in 2008”), used this completely valid methodology:
Richman identified 37 noncitizens on a list of temporary driver’s licenses in Kansas and found six who, he wrote in an expert report that Kobach filed in court, “had either registered to vote or attempted to register to vote.” He then divided those six people, representing 16 percent of a total of 37 people, by Kansas’s estimated noncitizen population of 114,000 and concluded that “a very substantial number and portion of noncitizens in Kansas have registered to vote or attempted to register to vote — more than 18,000.”
Richman was hired by Kobach to be an expert witness for the state in yet another lawsuit by the ACLU against Kansas’s voter suppression tactics.
Kobach is also the guy who convinced Donald Trump that the only reason he lost the popular vote had to be those millions of illegals who voted for Hillary; Kellyanne Conway said shortly after Trump tweeted the fake news that Kobach had indeed been the source of that alternative fact. So it only makes sense that Kobach should lead the commission that’ll find out that he was absolutely right. He seems pretty trustworthy, as long as you don’t mind the fudged data, the exaggerations of the threat of voter fraud, and, oh yes, this tidbit: Kobach was fined $1000 by a federal magistrate just last week for presenting “patently misleading representations to the court” in one of the legal challenges to Kansas’s voting laws.
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Be vigilant, America! Yr Wonkette will keep an eye open for where Kobach goes with what looks like an attempt to ratchet voter suppression up to a national level. Here’s hoping the Big Media will pay at least a little attention to his attempts to undermine democracy, between updates on what Donald Trump said about Mika’s face.
* UPDATE: Shin Inouye, Communications director at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, emailed us to note that we had quoted the Leadership Conference press release in a way that conflated Kobach’s letter with another letter sent the same day by the Department of Justice. We have edited the article and the quotation to clarify that the two letters, taken together, represent a threat to voter rights. Wonkette regrets the error.
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[Kobach letter on Scribd / Kansas City Star / WaPo / NYT / Rolling Stone / KC Star / San Diego Union-Tribune / Politico]