KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – A heated argument between a federal judge and a witness marked the fifth day of a voting rights trial already filled with procedural mistakes by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
In Fish v. Kobach, a group of Kansans sued the state over its voter ID law requiring people to show proof of citizenship documents to register to vote. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, say the law is burdensome and infringes their right to vote. Kobach argues the law is necessary to prevent noncitizens from voting.
Jesse Richman, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University, was called as one of Kobach’s witnesses Monday afternoon. According to Richman, as few as 1,000 and up to 18,000 noncitizens are registered to vote in Kansas.
His testimony is important to Kobach, who must convince U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson that noncitizen voting is widespread and that the voter ID law does not infringe upon the National Voter Registration Act by creating a burden on legitimate voters.
The ACLU objected to part of Richman’s testimony when he introduced new figures not already submitted to the court. Kobach, who is representing himself, has been reprimanded multiple times throughout the trial for trying to introduce new evidence without submitting it first.
“You can’t sit down with your expert on the eve of trial and come up with new estimates,” Robinson told Kobach.
Richman, who appeared angry with Robinson’s decision to limit his testimony, told her it was “ridiculous.”
In a heated moment, Judge Robinson yelled back at Richman for his comments.
“You don’t say anything unless there’s a question posed to you,” Robinson told him. “You’re not here to advocate, you’re not here to trash [the plaintiff]. You’re not here to argue with me.”
Earlier in the day, Kobach called Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an organization identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
Camarota offered testimony that voter registration in Kansas did not have a “statistically significant change” between 2010, before the voter ID law, and 2014, when the law was in place.
Mark Johnson, lawyers for one of the plaintiffs, questioned Camarota’s methodology of using census data without considering different factors that could affect voter turnout, such as competitive races. Johnson asked if increased interest could have increased the 2014 voter turnout.
“Hypothetically, it could,” Camarota acknowledged.
ACLU attorney questioned the bias of Camarota’s organization, noting that it was co-founded by John Tanton, an alleged white nationalist who has sought to repeal the birthright citizenship provisions of the 14th Amendment.
On cross-examination, Kobach asked Camarota about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of his organization as a hate group. Camarota said the leaders of his group are diverse and do not base their views on race.
“The suggestion that (CIS) is motivated by some kind of racial or ethnic animus is outrageous,” Camarota said.
The trial continues on Tuesday, with Richman back on the stand.
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