In first for Kobach, noncitizen pleads guilty to illegal voting in Kansas

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks during a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, in Topeka.

? Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced Wednesday that he has obtained his first conviction of a non-U.S. citizen voting in Kansas elections.

Victor David Garcia Bebek, who resides in Wichita, pleaded guilty April 7 to three misdemeanor counts of voting without being qualified, Kobach’s office said. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and placed on probation for up to three years, or until his fine is paid.

The conviction comes at a time when a law that Kobach championed in 2011 requiring people to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote is being challenged in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Last year, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of major provisions of the law until the case is decided.

According to Kobach’s office, Bebek, who is originally from Peru, became a naturalized U.S. citizen on Feb. 27. However, before he became a citizen, Kobach alleged, he voted in three elections in Kansas in 2012 and 2014.

It was the first conviction of a non-U.S. citizen voting in Kansas since the proof-of-citizenship law was adopted, and the eighth conviction for voting fraud that Kobach has obtained since passage of a law in 2015 giving the secretary of state’s office authority to prosecute voting crimes.

Since the proof of citizenship law took effect in 2013, tens of thousands of would-be voters have had their registrations blocked for failing to provide the required citizenship documents.

In a decision upholding Judge Robinson’s temporary injunction, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said last year that Kobach’s office must prove that a “substantial number” of noncitizens have registered in Kansas and that documentary proof of citizenship is the “minimum amount of information necessary” for the state to determine whether someone is eligible to vote.

“The problem of non-citizens voting is a serious one, both in Kansas and nationally,” Kobach said in a statement announcing Bebek’s guilty plea. “Every time a non-citizen votes, it cancels out the vote of a United States citizen.”