KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – Two documents written by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be unsealed, a federal judge ruled Thursday in a voting rights case against Kobach, now the driving force in President Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity.
An Associated Press photographer captured the front page of one of the documents in Kobach’s meeting with President-elect Donald Trump last November.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that releasing the documents, Kobach’s voter policies, would not harm his advisory duties to President Trump.
“Neither the timing nor the purpose of these documents, supports the contention that unsealing these particular documents would hamper defendant’s ability to confidentially advise the President,” Robinson wrote.
Robinson mentioned the lack of evidence of Kobach’s responsibilities in Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which has faced sharp criticism from voting rights groups.
For instance, after the group’s first public meeting, in New Hampshire in September, Kobach used driver’s license records to claim to have proved that thousands of people from out of state voted illegally. But New Hampshire allows college students to vote in the towns where they attend school, and most of the records Kobach cited came from college towns.
“And importantly, there is no evidence in the record about the scope of defendant’s duties as a member of the Presidential Election Commission, nor what matters are ‘within the purview of the Commission,’” Robinson wrote. “It is therefore impossible for this Court to find that disclosure of these two redacted documents, prepared before the Commission was created and not shared with other members of the Commission, has any deterrent effect on defendant’s ability to confidentially advise the President as one of its members.”
Robinson also rejected Kobach’s other arguments, that release of the documents would be used to harass or embarrass him.
“Defendant appears to misunderstand the applicable standard,” Robinson wrote. “As already stated, the public’s interest in access to judicial documents is presumptively paramount. It is defendant’s burden, not plaintiffs’, to assert a specific and significant interest that outweighs the presumption in favor of public access.”
The documents have been subject to a prolonged fight in a case in which the ACLU claims that Kansas violates the Voter Registration Act by requiring proof of citizenship to register. Kobach has fought to keep the documents out of public view, citing a number of reasons such as attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.
When the documents were handed over to the ACLU this summer, they were marked confidential, which the civil rights group fought, leading to the Thursday ruling.
“We are grateful that the court ultimately rejected Mr. Kobach’s months-long efforts to hide this information from the public,” ACLU attorney Orion Danjuma said in a statement. “The public has a right to know the truth about Mr. Kobach’s lobbying efforts and the truth behind his claims.”
The documents are expected to be unsealed within a week. A call to Kris Kobach’s spokeswoman Samantha Poetter was not immediately returned.
In one of the heavily redacted documents released Thursday, Kobach proposes drafting an amendment to the National Voter Registration Act that promotes the use of proof of citizenship requirements such as those used in Kansas.
The other document calls for a change of language in the National Voting Rights Act.
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a state from requiring documentary proof of citizenship from any applicant,” the proposal states.
Democrats and many minority groups believe that Republicans use “voting integrity” as a code word for suppressing the votes of people who tend to vote Democratic, such as blacks, Latinos and the poor.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.