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Thursday, 19 April 2018 06:06

Vote Suppressor Kris Kobach Gets Rebuked by Federal Judge

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kris kobachKansas Secretary of State and vote suppressor Kris Kobach (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

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On April 18, a federal judge in Kansas held inveterate vote suppressor Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court for failing to enfranchise an estimated 30,000 voters. US District Judge Julie Robinson also found Kobach liable to pay for attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The crux of the ruling invalidates Kobach's efforts to prevent people who do not show proof of citizenship from registering to vote at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices.

According to The Kansas City Star:

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kan., referred repeatedly to Kobach as acting “disingenuously.”

She chastised him for failing to treat the voters affected by the ongoing court case the same as all other registered voters in accordance with a previous court order....

“The term ‘register’ is not ambiguous, nor should there have been any question that these voters were to be treated just like any other registered voter,” Robinson said in her order.

“The Court is troubled by Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson specifically upbraided Kobach for not sending out postcards with confirmation of voter and information about polling places to voters who had registered at DMVs but had not shown papers proving US citizenship. Judge Robinson, appointed by George W. Bush, had in 2016 directed Kobach to send out the standard registration postcards to the DMV voters in limbo, but he only partially complied.

It is worthy of note that Kobach is a nativist aligned with Trump's anti-immigration stance who shares the president's racist views toward Mexican and Central American immigrants. Prior to his election as Kansas secretary of state, he championed anti-immigration cases in Kansas courts and even supported the infamous SB1070 in Arizona. SB1070 was passed as a harsh anti-Mexican immigration law that even allowed police to arrest persons without driver's licenses or identity papers. Time magazine quoted Kobach backing the then just-passsed law in 2010:

"There are some things that states can do and some that states can't do, but this law threads the needle perfectly," says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law professor who helped write the legislation. He believes it will withstand constitutional challenge. "In the bill, Arizona only penalizes what is already a crime under federal law," says Kobach, a Yale Law School graduate and onetime counsel to former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

It is not surprising then that Trump appointed Kobach to co-chair the short-lived Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The purpose of the sham commission was to try and prove the unprovable: Trump's assertion that more than three million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The figure was approximately the same number of votes by which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. After an ill-fated effort to order every state to turn over their voting records, the commission was shut down and its "work" vaguely assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. It may also have been that the PR stunt of forming the commission ran up against the reality that voter fraud is infinitesimal in the United States.

In 2017, the Brennan Center for Justice found:

Most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. [Our] report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent.

Furthermore, investigative reporter Greg Palast has researched Kobach's Operation Crosscheck, which is a spurious list of alleged double voters in a large number of states, and found it to be a misleading vehicle to disenfranchise a large number of Black and Latino voters based on similar names. On April 8, Palast announced that he is joining forces with the ACLU of Kansas to legally challenge the creation and use of Interstate Crosscheck, which Trump supports becoming a federal legal voting enforcement tool.

It is not surprising that Kobach is running for governor of Kansas in 2017. The dots that connect all his scam voter suppression schemes are tied to keeping demographic groups that are less likely to vote Republican from casting ballots, including in the election he is running in this year.

As Robin Marty of Care2 wrote recently:

The specter of voter fraud creates a natural boogeyman that allows the GOP to paint "others" -- mostly minorities and immigrants -- as thwarting the system and somehow stealing the power from "good" voters. Kobach and his ilk appear utterly unaware of the burdens they put on the legal right to vote for those who are eligible but lack the proper documentation, as he made quite clear during testimony.

Marty is accurate in describing the effort by Kobach and the Republicans to keep people of color from voting. This ties directly into Trump's "Make America Great Again" theme and his support for white supremacy in governance. However, I would disagree that Kobach is "unaware" of the burdens that he is imposing on the "others." He knows exactly what he is doing: Trying to build a firewall around a white-dominated nation.