KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – In the third day of a federal bench trial that could help determine the legality of voter ID laws, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday challenged the claim of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that thousands of noncitizens voted in Kansas elections.
The lawsuit Fish v. Kobach, brought forward by Kansans who said their legal right to vote was blocked, questions the validity of a state law that requires them to show citizenship documents such as passports or birth certificates in order to register to vote.
Kobach, a champion of the voter ID law, says it’s necessary in order to keep noncitizens from fraudulently voting.
Tabitha Lehman, the Kobach-appointed Sedgwick County election commissioner, continued her testimony Thursday morning. Sedgwick County is notable for being the second most populous county in Kansas and the location of Wichita, the state’s largest city.
On Wednesday, ACLU attorneys turned to the possibility that a couple of noncitizens were able to register to vote not due to voter fraud, but rather human error of DMV workers.
And on Thursday, the ACLU brought into question voter registration data Lehman had assembled for Kobach, showing 38 names of noncitizens who either attempted to register or successfully registered to vote. An attorney for the ACLU pointed out that the majority of those did not go on to vote in any election, even after being registered for up to 18 years.
Kobach’s argument, one that he must convince U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson is true, is that noncitizen voting is a widespread problem in the state.
The ACLU also pointed out an email of election staff members who complained about DMV employees who would register noncitizens to vote, citing the human error involved.
Lehman seemed to reinforce the ACLU’s other argument the law is confusing and that election officials were not trained well enough when she said she didn’t understand one of the notations on the spreadsheet.
Mark Johnson, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, began reading voting instructions to Lehman, signaling the possibility of the law being unclear to the public, when Kobach objected.
“It sounds like he’s reading regulatory language,” Kobach said to Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee.
“I’m not reading regulatory language,” Johnson said. “I’m reading language from your website.”
Lehman said she agreed that the language used on the Secretary of State website is confusing.
In Kobach’s questioning of Lehman, he pointed out that some driver’s license applicants signed an oath stating that they were citizens, implying that it would be easy to fool DMV employees and hide the true number of noncitizens voting in elections.
In addition to proving that noncitizen voting is widespread, Kobach must prove that there is no better way to prevent it than asking potential voters to show citizenship documents.
During the afternoon, state director of elections Bryan Caskey took the stand. The ACLU was quick to point out errors Caskey had made on the spreadsheet of noncitizens who registered to vote.
“I wasn’t trying to defraud the court,” Caskey said. “I had a double entry in the spreadsheet.”
Caskey testified that some human error had occurred when people brought proof of citizenship to the DMV to obtain a driver’s license. He said not all documents were scanned in, as employees often just make a scan of documents needed to get a license and don’t necessarily include a person’s proof of citizenship.
The ACLU argued, and Caskey agreed, that mistakes in voter registration can be made. This line of reasoning is the basis of the ACLU’s argument that some of the numbers Kobach points to as noncitizens trying to fraudulently vote can be explained instead as human error.
Kobach’s long-awaited video deposition was pushed back again, this time to Friday. The trial is expected to continue through Tuesday.
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