Judge Strikes Down Kansas Voter ID Law, Sanctions Kris Kobach

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – A federal judge found Kansas’ voter ID law unconstitutional Monday and sanctioned Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, ordering him to take additional legal education classes.

In Fish v. Kobach, a group of voters, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued Kobach for enforcing a state law that required Kansans to provide proof-of-citizenship documents in order to register to vote. Kobach, who is running for governor, served on President Donald Trump’s national voter fraud panel that dissolved earlier this year after states refused to hand over personal voter information.

In an 118-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson said the law was unconstitutional as it created an unnecessary burden on voters.

In this Nov. 20, 2016, file photo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, holds a stack of papers as he meets with then President-elect Donald Trump at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

During the March trial, Kobach had the burden to show that voting by noncitizens was widespread enough to justify the law. In a ruling made by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Kobach was also required to show that the voter ID law did not violate the National Voting Rights Act.

Robinson’s ruling states that he failed in those two burdens.

“The Court has already determined that at most, 67 noncitizens registered or attempted to register in Kansas over the last 19 years,” Robinson wrote. “Even looking beyond Kansas, Defendant’s evidence of noncitizen registration at trial was weak.”

Robinson also sanctioned Kobach for what she called a “well-documented history of avoiding this Court’s orders.”

The federal judge condemned Kobach for failing to disclose documents and attempting to introduce evidence that she had already excluded. She ordered him to take six hours of legal education beyond what is required by his law license on trial procedure.

The Kansas League of Women Voters, one of the plaintiffs, argued during trial that requiring a birth certificate or similar documents slowed down voter registration drives. Robinson was swayed by their testimony, finding that “tens of thousands of eligible citizens were blocked from registration” and “the process of completing the registration process was burdensome for them.”

Robinson said that better training of voting officials might alleviate Kobach’s concern over noncitizens voting.

“If most noncitizen registrations are due to mistake or administrative error, as opposed to intentional fraud, that fact shapes the best method for enforcing the citizenship requirement,” Robinson wrote.

The federal judge was especially critical of Kobach’s expert witness Hans von Spakovsky, an attorney who testified on noncitizen voting.

Robinson said von Spakovsky’s work was likely based on “misleading evidence and largely based on his preconceived beliefs about this issue, which has led to his aggressive public advocacy of stricter proof-of-citizenship laws.”

“We are gratified by today’s decision, which establishes what Kansans have long known: Sec. Kobach’s restrictions on the right to vote are illegal, unconstitutional, and just plain wrong,” the ACLU of Kansas said in a public statement Monday afternoon.

Kobach’s office could not be reached for comment, but previously said he would appeal if Robinson ruled against him.

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