KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach( R) on Thursday offered his first evidence of noncitizens trying to register to vote in a trial challenging a Kansas requirement that people demonstrate their U.S. citizenship to get on the voter rolls.
The evidence was a spreadsheet of 38 instances of alleged illegal voter activity in Sedgwick County that Kobach’s office had compiled over 18 times, from 1999 to 2017. As of 2016, there were more than 293,000 registered voters in Sedgwick County and over 1.8 million in Kansas.
Documents like the spreadsheet will be essential to Kobach as he makes his suit that large numbers of noncitizens are trying to get onto the voting rolls. In order to save the Kansas law, he will have to show that noncitizen voter enrollment is a substantial trouble and that nothing short of the state’s proof-of-citizenship law can stop it. Kobach’s office has identified 129 people who have attempted to or successfully registered since 2000, but he says that there could be nearly 18,000 noncitizens on the rollings and that he plans to present more indication in the trial.
Kobach questioned Tabitha Lehman, the Sedgwick County election commissioner who compiled the spreadsheet data. Of the 38 people on the listing, 18 had registered, 16 had attempted to register and four had been allowed to register after a federal magistrate issued an injunction in 2016 blocking the Kansas proof-of-citizenship law.
Of the 38 people on the listing, merely five had voted, some multiple times.
Prompted by Kobach, Lehman said there was no way to ascertain who those illegal voters cast their votes for or to cancel them after they had been casting. Kobach has argued that Americans may never know who really won the popular vote in the 2016 general elections because there could be billions of illegal voters on the rollings and it’s impossible to know who they voting in favour — a claim President Donald Trump has also made. Democrat Hillary Clinton overcame Trump by virtually 3 million elections but lost the Electoral College vote. There is no evidence illegal voting is a widespread difficulty or that it swayed the 2016 election.
From May 2017 until January, Kobach led Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was sued several times for allegedly contravening federal procedural statutes. The White House disbanded the commission on human rights in January.
Angela Liu, alawyer working with the American Civil Liberty Union to represent the plaintiffs — five Kansas residents who were not allowed to vote in 2016 — pressed Lehman on a detailed description of the Sedgwick County spreadsheet. She noted that the 18 noncitizens who had registered over 18 times amounted to an average of one per year. Several of those on the spreadsheet were registered for many years but “ve never” voted.
Liu likewise suggested the number of people on the list was inflated. She presented Lehman with records showing that people on the spreadsheet had voluntarily disclosed they were not citizens on their voting applications but Kobach’s office had counted them anyway. Lehman noted many of them had signed an affirmation on their application saying they met all of the requirements to be eligible to vote, including that they were U.S. citizens.
Lehman’s testimony took up the morning of the third largest period of a trial that is moving forward slowly and is expected to spill out into next week. The ACLU had originally been planned to play highly anticipated video of a deposition of Kobach on Thursday, but the parties weren’t able to move quickly enough through witnesses on Thursday.
It’s clear that both parties feel the sluggish speed of such cases, and expert witnesses scheduled to testify for days have had to show up each day.
While the public packed the courthouse for the first day of the trial, it was far emptier on Wednesday and Thursday.