TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach must hand over voting-policy documents he shared with President Donald Trump, amid an unfolding dispute over the state’s voter-registration laws.
The American Civil Liberties Union had demanded the documents – created by Kobach and shared with the erstwhile president-elect referencing an amendment to the National Voter Registration Act – stating that they could be relevant to a lawsuit it filed over Kansas’ voter-registration laws in 2016.
The front page of the documents, which references changes to national voting laws, was widely seen in an Associated Press photo of Trump and Kobach. In April, U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara ordered Kobach to release the documents, but stayed the order to allow Kobach time to seek review.
According to the ACLU’s February 2016 lawsuit against Kobach, Kansas law violates the National Voter Registration Act. The case centers on voting laws that require Kansans to produce documents like birth certificates to prove citizenship.
Kobach argues the laws are meant to cut down on voter fraud, while the ACLU says the law targets minority voters who are less likely to have such documents.
In her review of O’Hara’s order, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson rejected Kobach’s arguments that the documents fell within the scope of executive privilege, noting O’Hara’s finding that Trump was not president at the time Kobach shared the documents with him.
“And, as Judge O’Hara noted, no court has ever recognized that this privilege applies before a president takes office,” Robinson wrote. “Judge O’Hara’s decision not to extend the privilege under these circumstances is not contrary to law.”
Kobach also argued the documents were protected under attorney-client privilege, saying he only shared them with his lawyer Garrett Roe and Brian Caskey, the state elections director. Robinson rejected that argument as well.
“The privilege log description of the document does not denote that it was communicated for the purpose of seeking or imparting legal advice,” Robinson wrote.
A representative in Kobach’s office said they are still reviewing the ruling and declined to comment.
The ACLU did not respond to email and phone requests for comment by press time.