Kris Kobach has been successfully sued four times for suppressing votes. And as Kansas Secretary of State, he could oversee a potential recount for the Republican gubernatorial primary.
As of this writing, Kobach is ahead of incumbent Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes, likely meaning there will soon be an official recount to determine the winner. However, despite the very obvious conflict of interest, Kobach says he won’t recuse himself from his current job — which includes overseeing elections — if a recount is ordered.
“The recount thing is done on a county level, so the secretary of state does not actually participate directly in the recount,” Kobach said Tuesday night, responding to reporters who asked what he would do in the event of a recount, given his razor-thin margin of victory. “The secretary of state’s office merely serves as a coordinating entity overseeing it all but not actually counting the vote.”
While this is technically true, it’s still not a good look for Kobach, who served as vice-chair of President Trump’s short-lived Commission on Election Integrity. The commission was disbanded in January of 2018, after members of the commission found no evidence of the widespread voter fraud that Trump said was the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by approximately 3 million votes.
As Grit Post reported last year, Kobach relies on a program called the “Interstate Voter Cross Check,” (cross check) which began in Kansas in 2005. Cross check identifies voters who have the same name, is on the rolls in multiple states, and voting in those states on the same day.
Assuming the premise behind cross check is correct, a voter named “Juan Gonzalez” or “Marcus Williams” voting in both Texas and Florida the same day is presumably breaking the law. However, cross check ignores that millions of voters — including traditionally Democratic-leaning voters like African Americans and Hispanics — have the same name, are registered to vote, and cast ballots on election day like every other American. Cross check actually doesn’t offer any evidence of double-voting, and is based on name alone.
“Mostly Republican controlled states are using this hit list of Kobach’s to purge the voter rolls. Over 41,673 citizens have had their voter registrations canceled in Virginia alone,” investigative journalist and author Greg Palast told Grit Post in a phone interview. “Of the three democratically controlled states that turned over voter data to the commission — lllinois, Virginia, and Massachusetts — they’ve inherited a system of black voter purging from Republicans.”
In April of this year, Kobach was held in contempt of court by refusing an order from a federal judge who ruled that he must cease requiring voters to submit proof of citizenship. Even though he was ordered to send notifications to voters who had been disenfranchised from the policy that the court had overruled him, and that he was required to instruct all state elections officials to remove the citizenship requirement from their training manuals, Kobach continued to refuse, and even instructed officials within his agency to disregard the judge’s order.
In 2016, Kobach’s stringent registration qualifications resulted in nearly 14,000 ballots being thrown out across the state. In addition to the proof of citizenship and photo ID requirements, Kansas voters were required to update their information with their new county of residence if they moved, and were disqualified from voting if they failed to update their information with the appropriate bureaucracy. This, along with administrative issues like voters mistakenly voting at the wrong precinct resulted in thousands of ballots being thrown out.
Despite Kobach’s hand-wringing about voter fraud, the boogeyman of voters showing up in droves to cast multiple ballots simply doesn’t exist. In 2016, there were only four documented cases of voter fraud out of more than 135 million ballots cast. And in every federal election between 2000 and 2014, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt only found 241 fraudulent ballots nationwide — cast by just 31 people — out of more than one billion total ballots.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.