Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who co-chaired President Trump’s now-defunct commission to combat the nonexistent threat of “voter fraud” — is reportedly telling local election officials to violate a federal judge’s order.
Bryan Caskey, who works for Kobach’s office as the elections director for the state, apparently told county clerks on a recent conference call to ignore a federal judge’s recent order to immediately cease its proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters. Kobach spokesperson Danedri Herbert told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the Secretary of State’s office needs more time to review the 118-page order (PDF link) issued by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson earlier this week.
Robinson — who was appointed by former President George W. Bush — ruled on Monday that Kobach’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for people registering to vote violated the National Voter Registration Act. Judge Robinson also said Kobach’s policy was in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that no state may pass a law that “deprive[s] any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws.”
Judge Robinson’s order specified that Kobach must “immediately” inform local election administrators that they are not to require proof of citizenship. However, Herbert said Kobach’s refusal to comply was simply a difference in legal interpretation.
“I think ‘immediately’ is kind of open to interpretation,” Herbert told the Capital-Journal.
The battle between Kobach and Robinson dates back to 2016, when she first struck down the proof of citizenship provision and ordered him to inform all voters disenfranchised for not bringing a birth certificate with them when they registered to vote that their status as legal voters was reinstated. When he refused, Kobach was held in contempt of court, putting him personally on the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees paid by the plaintiffs who originally sued him over the policy.
It’s likely that Robinson may, once again, rule Kobach in contempt of court for not complying with her order. However, Herbert told the Capital-Journal that the Secretary of State’s elections division plans to “fully comply” with the order, and will issue written guidance to local elections officials as soon as Wednesday.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.