KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – After a week of procedural delays, a video deposition of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach played in the federal bench trial to determine the legality of voter ID laws.
At the heart of Fish v. Kobach is the Kansas Safe and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act, a state law that requires would-be voters to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
The American Civil Liberties Union represents the plaintiffs. Kobach, representing himself, has to prove two things to U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson: the problem of noncitizen voting is widespread, and the state law doesn’t infringe the right to vote.
In Kobach’s video deposition, the ACLU questioned him about his November 2016 meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump and the draft of proposed changes to the National Voter Registration Act he brought with him.
The draft referred to a part of the act that would have to be changed in order for Kobach to require proof of citizenship without violating the law. In 2016, the 10th Circuit upheld Robinson’s preliminary injunction barring Kobach from asking for citizenship documents from Kansans who registered using federal forms instead of state forms.
Kobach denied the draft was written up in response to that ruling.
“It’s not even intended to have anything to do with her order,” Kobach said on tape, claiming the draft was a contingency in case he lost the court battle and any future appeals. Kobach added he did discuss the idea with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
In his meeting with the president-elect, Kobach said Trump advisers Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus and Stephen Miller were also in attendance to talk about the possibility of Kobach becoming secretary of Homeland Security.
In the deposition, Kobach said he didn’t think they spoke about the National Voter Registration Act, but that they may have talked in general terms about noncitizens fraudulently voting.
Hans von Spakovsky, an attorney with conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, offered testimony about the number of noncitizen voters in Kansas on Friday. He said his research indicated there could be thousands.
ACLU lead attorney Dale Ho quickly poked holes in von Spakovsky’s work, pointing out he is not a political scientist, has not had training in the field and has never published a peer-reviewed study.
In an intense series of questions throughout the afternoon, Ho questioned the validity of von Spakovsky’s studies and his testimony as an expert witness. One such time was when Ho asked if von Spakovsky recognized other experts in the field of noncitizen registration.
“I know about my expertise,” von Spakovsky said. “I’m not going to determine the expertise of others.”
Ho then played a video of von Spakovsky’s deposition from 2016 when he was asked the same question. In the video, von Spakovsky seemed hesitant to name other possible experts.
With the ACLU painting him as an outsider and not an academic, Ho later asked von Spakovsky about his research methods and whether they fall in line with the scientific method.
“I have no idea,” von Spakovsky said.
Ho also how von Spakovsky could determine Kansas had a widespread problem with fraudulent voting, implying that he only used a spreadsheet of data sent to him by Kobach.
Although the ACLU still has more witnesses to call, von Spakovsky was allowed to testify due to scheduling conflicts. The trial continues on Monday.
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