He’s running for governor, hoping to win the Republican primary on August 7, and has ties to the power players of the Republican Party, but the last few months have seen him involved in antics that made officials of a Kansas town apologize, a judge find him in contempt, and the ACLU file yet another lawsuit against him.

TOUGH FEW MONTHS

In early June, candidate Kobach appeared in a town parade standing on the back of a Jeep (painted like an American flag) while “manning” a replica machine gun. It was odd, caught national attention, and ruffled so many feathers that the town, Shawnee, saw fit to issue an apology.

Then last week, a federal judge, Julie Robinson, ruled Kobach’s signature legislation – requiring Kansans to provide proof of citizenship in order to vote – unconstitutional. During the trial in March, the judge had found him in contempt of court. Kobach and his supporting attorneys also fumbled when introducing evidence, including at least one instance of trying to introduce evidence that the judge had already excluded. He failed to disclose documents. One witness gave misleading testimony. Kobach’s action during the trial showed such disregard – or lack of understanding – of the law that, in her ruling, the judge ordered Kobach to take six hours of legal training on “civil rules of procedure or evidence.”

Kobach had been defending Kansas’s proof of citizenship law in a two-year-long court case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters. The law, one of the strictest in the country, required people to present a U.S. passport, birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to register to vote. Opponents said it tried to prevent the poor, the elderly, and minorities from voting. The fact that individuals in those categories typically registered as Democrats didn’t go unnoticed by many.

This wasn’t just any law for Kobach. He helped draft it and pushed Kansas legislators to pass it.

In her 188-page ruling, Judge Robinson – a George W. Bush appointee – not only destroyed the law, but the basis on which it was founded. She ruled the law “acted as a deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote.”

For those who are still unclear of the impact of the ruling, Kansas citizens no longer have to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote – effective immediately.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

Kansans should know who Kris Kobach is.

We’ve seen his name in the local news for years in connection with voting requirements, but know little about the man.

He is 52 years old, married, with a family of five daughters. He grew up in Topeka, the son of a car dealer. He was a high-achieving student in academics and athletics. He earned degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale, putting him among the best educated politicians in the country.

After getting a White House fellowship to work with George W. Bush’s attorney general, he parlayed it into a regular position as counsel on the attorney general’s staff. Following 9/11, and an increasing fear of Muslim terrorists, his job involved taking part in immigration matters such as the implementation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System and making adjustments to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

After leaving Washington, he taught law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and took on legal work, mostly around legislation and legislative issues controlling illegal immigration. He worked around the country, drafting anti-immigrant statutes for cities or states, and then defending the statutes in court, where his clients often lost.

A famous example is Arizona’s SB 1070; an immigration law passed in 2010 that, among other things, criminalized not carrying immigration documents and required police to determine a person’s immigration status during a lawful stop or arrest if there was reason to suspect the person was in the country illegally. The law was the subject of numerous national protests, boycotts of the State of Arizona and lawsuits claiming racial profiling. Appeals of the law reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down all but one aspect of the law.

Another example is Hazelton, Pennsylvania. In 2006, the town council approved a law that designated English as the official language, fined landlords who rented to illegal immigrants, and fined employers who hired illegal immigrants.

The statute was fought in federal court, found unlawful, and the town was itself fined $1 million.

Building and profiting off such cases has earned Kobach ridicule on national TV.

Samantha Bee, host of the satirical news show “Full Frontal,” said last year, “Kobach tap-danced from town to town selling unsuspecting White people a law they didn’t need for a problem they didn’t have, then leaving their towns divided and broke. Kind of like … a racist Music Man.”

Then Bee and singers sang a parody of “Ya Got Trouble” from the musical “The Music Man,” with Bee as a fast-talking con man convincing townspeople that immigrants are bad.

Kobach has probably laughed all the way to the bank. His legal fees have totaled millions of dollars. A report for the Center for American Progress estimated $6.6 million as of 2011.

But, Kobach wanted more.

SECRETARY OF STATE

In addition to managing business filings from around the state, the Kansas Office of Secretary of State presides over elections.

Back in 2010, Kris Kobach rode into office as secretary of state on the platform of fighting voter fraud. He immediately started pushing for the passage of a voter ID law and the proof of citizenship requirement, both taking effect in 2013.

There was a similar push in Republican-majority states for voter ID laws. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that there were 16 states with new laws requiring photo identification at the polls. However Kansas’s proof of citizenship requirement was far more overreaching. 

The problem, as ruled by Judge Robinson, was that it was an over-reaching law to deal with a very small problem.

When a California law professor named Justin Levitt did a comprehensive study of voter fraud allegations in America from 2000 to 2014, he found only 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of 1 billion ballots cast.

With just 31 fraudulent votes out of 1,000,000,000 votes across the nation over a 15-year period, the rate of voter fraud was nearly 0%.

Kobach said in a 2010 press conference that as many as 2,000 people in Kansas may be using the identities of dead people to vote. He named one dead man as an example.

The Wichita Eagle then located the man, and found him to be 78 years old, alive and raking leaves in his yard.

In 2017, Kobach claimed 18,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Kansas. This was debunked by The New York Times and other organizations, and at the recent proof of citizenship trial.

VOTER FRAUD PROSECUTIONS

After enacting the voter ID law, Kobach lobbied the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback to give his office the right to prosecute cases of voter fraud, and he succeeded.

Previously, local county prosecutors oversaw prosecution of the cases. The law made Kobach the only secretary of state in the nation with authority to prosecute.

With power in hand, Kobach started investigating. Hard.

Since 2015, he’s charged 15 people, and has obtained fewer than 10 convictions of voter fraud.

Six of these “criminals” were older citizens who were unaware they’d done anything wrong, according to the Topeka-Capital Journal.

In January, Kobach filed two felony charges – election perjury and voting more than once – against 20-year-old rodeo rider and Fort Hays State University student Bailey McCaughey.

While home in Colorado in 2016, she told VICE news, she filled out a mail-in ballot for the presidential election and left it on the kitchen counter. Sometime later, back at school, McCaughey went with friends to vote.

Unfortunately for her, her mother mailed the ballot she left on the kitchen counter – making the young woman a criminal.

Kobach’s office has agreed to a plea deal: a misdemeanor that will stay on McCaughey’s record and a $500 fine.

TRUMP COMMISSION

During the 2016 election cycle, Kobach pointed to fraud in the presidential election’s popular vote for Hillary Clinton. CNN called him out for providing no proof. Despite the absence of proof, President Donald Trump, who remained troubled that he hadn’t won the popular vote, decided to buy into Kobach’s claim.

Trump named him vice chair of the Commission on Election Integrity. The goal: Find voter fraud.

To find these voting irregularities, Kobach requested voter information from every state in the nation: names and party affiliations of all registered voters, birth dates, felony conviction records, voting histories for the past decade and the last four digits of all voters’ Social Security numbers.

Many states refused to comply, and many states could not because they had laws preventing them from sharing this information. Kobach found out that even Kansas law forbade him from sharing voter info with his own commission.

He may not have done well keeping the information private, anyway.

During the same time period Kobach was involved in the commission, the tech website Gizmodo revealed that Kobach’s office had made available on Internet searches the last four digits of the Social Security numbers of thousands of state employees and legislators.

Perhaps President Trump started to suspect Kobach was filled with Kansas wind, because the election commission was quietly disbanded in January.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

There are more Kobach issues we haven’t touched on.

There’s the time he discarded thousands of provisional ballots in November 2016, claiming there was no record the voters were registered.

There’s the time he threw out more than 18,000 voter registration forms for people who wanted to vote in Kansas but failed to conform to the requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Put simply, 18,000 people were not allowed to vote so Kobach could catch fewer than 10 people who voted fraudulently.

There’s the time the Associated Press discovered Kobach was flying around the country on non-Kansas business in a Kansas Highway Patrol airplane and not reimbursing the state.

And then there’s the time a Wichita State University instructor wanted to inspect ballots for election integrity following a close governor’s race that could have unseated incumbent Sam Brownback, and Kobach went to court to prevent the inspection from happening.

It may have been a pretty tough few months for Kobach, but it’s been a tough almost eight years for Kansas voters and would-be voters. Despite the recent rulings, Kansans may not have seen the end of it.

Kobach has said he’ll appeal Judge Robinson’s ruling. Certainly, he’ll get the appeal underway ahead of January 2018, when he’s scheduled to vacate the secretary of state position. He can’t run for governor and secretary of state at the same time – so Kansans won’t have to worry about him as the head of our election process, but here’s a couple of things to ponder:

1. Who will replace him and where do they stand on election laws?

2. Kobach could be our next governor.

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