Kan. Elections Chief Stymies ACLU’s Use of Voting Policy Files

TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) – Another legal dispute is underway for the voting policy documents Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach shared with President Donald Trump last fall: Kobach shared the documents with the American Civil Liberties Union as ordered, but marked them confidential.

The ACLU, currently engaged in a voting rights case with Kobach, has wanted to review the documents ever since an Associated Press photo of his November meeting with Trump revealed the documents listed a plan for voter rolls. Those documents, the ACLU contends, could be relevant to their case. Kobach was named vice chair of the Trump administration’s new Advisory Commission on Election Integrity last week.

Despite Kobach’s months-long effort to keep the documents hidden, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson last week ordered him to release the documents by Friday, May 12.

Stephen Bonney, chief counsel and legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, said that Judge Robinson’s ruling did not state the documents were confidential. The ACLU plans to disclose the documents to the public, but is looking to clear up the confidentiality issue in the courts first.

“It’s just puzzling,” Bonney said. “We’re looking at what steps to take now and should have it figured out before the end of the week.”

Bonney noted Robinson refuted Kobach’s claims that the documents were privileged information.

“She cited (U.S. District Judge James O’Hara’s) previous ruling that the claims were irrelevant,” Bonney said.

Kobach spokeswoman Samantha Poetter said she could not comment on whether or not the documents were correctly marked.

The ongoing court battle stems from the class action Fish v. Kobach, filed in February 2016 by the ACLU on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. The lawsuit claims Kansas’ voter-registration law violates the National Voter Registration Act by requiring Kansas voters to provide proof of citizenship like a passport or birth certificate.

Kansas started requiring proof of citizenship in 2013. Kobach, who helped draft the law, said it prevents non-citizens from voting and helps to cut down on voter fraud.

In May 2016, Judge Robinson ordered Kobach to allow voters who registered at the DMV to vote in November’s election, even if they did not provide additional documents required by the state law. More than 20,000 people were affected by the ruling.

A day before he was scheduled to appear in court for contempt, Kobach reached a settlement with the ACLU in September 2016 that allowed voters who registered at the DMV to vote in November while the larger question of the legality of the state law would continue in court. Kobach’s office also directed local election officials to send out notices to let affected voters know they were eligible to vote.

The trial is set to start in June.

 

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