Researcher Takes Heat for Study at Heart of Voter ID Trial

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) – The sixth day of the federal bench trial to determine the legality of voter ID laws spotlighted the work of a political scientist used by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to bolster his claim that thousands of noncitizens have registered to vote.

In Fish v. Kobach, the plaintiffs – represented by the American Civil Liberties Union – claim Kansas’ voter ID law is burdensome and prevented them from voting. The law requires Kansans to provide the state with proof of citizenship documents in order to register to vote. Kobach claims that the law is necessary to prevent noncitizens from fraudulently voting.

Jesse Richman, associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University, testified most of the day Tuesday about his survey work. Richman claims that anywhere from 1,000 to 60,000 noncitizens are registered to vote in the Sunflower State.

Dale Ho, lead attorney for the ACLU, questioned the credibility of Richman’s work and noted some of it consisted of sample sizes with as few as 37 people. Richman acknowledged his surveys are not peer-reviewed.

Ho also brought up an open letter signed by nearly 200 political scientists who rejected Richman’s 2014 findings that up to 14 percent of noncitizens voted in the 2008 elections.

“The scholarly political science community has generally rejected the findings in the Richman et al. study and we believe it should not be cited or used in any debate over fraudulent voting,” the letter states.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that Hillary Clinton received between 3 and 5 million noncitizen votes in the 2016 presidential election, a number the White House claims to have gotten from Kobach.

Ho showed a video interview of Kobach filmed last year in which Kobach claimed about 3 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election nationwide, in reference to Richman’s work. When asked if he believed it was possible that Trump lost the popular vote due to illegal voting, Richman said no.

Ho also pressed Richman on another survey in which he flagged names he deemed foreign on a voter suspense list in order to determine citizenship. Ho questioned the validity of that method and asked Richman if he would flag the name “Carlos Murguia.”

After Richman replied that he would probably flag it, Ho revealed that Murguia is a federal judge in the District of Kansas who works in the same courthouse.

Kobach, who has been admonished multiple times by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, again tried to reference material that was not submitted into evidence while cross-examining Richman. Robinson asked him to refer to the rules of evidence and called for a short break in order to allow Kobach to read up on them.

The trial, which has been beset by procedural delays, will continue March 19.


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