Kansas’ Kobach, ACLU Headed for Voter ID Showdown in March

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)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, champion of voter ID laws, will have to defend his state’s policies at trial in March.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson set a trial date of March 6 in an ongoing battle over voting rights between Kobach and civil rights group American Civil Liberties Union.

Robinson also dismissed some testimony offered by Kobach’s witness who contends that widespread voter fraud takes place regularly in the United States. The ruling came shortly after President Donald Trump announced he dissolved his national voter fraud commission, which was co-chaired by Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence, and would instead have the Department of Homeland Security look into the issue.

Hans von Spakovsky, a member of the now dissolved commission, was deemed unqualified by Robinson to offer analysis of a state survey about the law due to his lack of knowledge on the subject.

“The witness then admitted he is neither a social scientist, nor a historian, although he has significant experience researching the issue of voter fraud,” Robinson wrote in her ruling. “He testified that he took a class in statistics as an undergraduate student at MIT, and that he has published work ‘some years ago’ critical of another survey on this topic. It is clear that von Spakovsky is not qualified to testify as an expert about this survey.

“A single undergraduate class 30 years ago and a policy paper critical of another survey is simply insufficient.”

The fight in Kansas stems from a 2016 complaint by Kansans who could not register to vote due to the state’s requirement to show proof of U.S. citizenship. The ACLU took up the case, claiming the state law violates the National Voter Registration Act.

Dale Ho, ACLU Voting Rights Project director, said his group is ready to take on Kobach at trial.

“Kris Kobach has repeatedly tried to disenfranchise Kansans, and the courts have repeatedly blocked his attempts,” Ho said. “We look forward to showing yet again how Kobach’s actions undermine voters and are illegal.”

The case has been fraught with difficulties for Kobach. He fought an order to produce voting policy documents he shared with then President-elect Trump in November 2016 after being photographed with them by the Associated Press. After turning them over to the ACLU, he marked them as confidential, starting a transparency battle that ended with some of the documents being unsealed.

He was also fined $1,000 for lying to the judge about the nature of the documents. His appeals of the fine were rejected by both Robinson and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kobach’s office did not return a phone call or email requesting comment by press time.


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