The rebukes keep coming for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, but it remains to be seen if his missteps will affect his candidacy for governor.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt for failing to inform people they were eligible to cast ballots while a lawsuit challenging Kobach’s proof of citizenship voter registration law made its way through the courts. Robinson ordered Kobach to pay court costs, including attorney fees for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the contempt ruling. Kobach, of course, plans to appeal.
Kobach has been an unabashed supporter of tight restrictions on voter registration. During his tenure as secretary of state, Kobach pushed through the most restrictive laws in the country, requiring those wishing to register to vote to show specific documents such as a birth certificate or passport in order to register.
Kobach has maintained such laws are necessary to prevent illegal immigrants from casting ballots, even though there is no evidence supporting widespread fraud in U.S. elections. Indeed, Kobach subscribes to President Donald Trump’s theory that as many as 5 million illegal votes kept Trump from capturing the popular vote in the 2016 election.
Kobach’s methods are generally seen as thinly veiled attempts to suppress turnout of voters who lean Democratic, because voter registration laws are hardest on young people, the elderly and the poor.
Fortunately, Kobach’s efforts have not held up well in either courts of justice or public opinion.
In addition to the contempt ruling, courts also granted an injunction barring the enforcement of the Kansas law until a final ruling in the case. And judges have repeatedly chastised Kobach for missing deadlines, failing to turn over records and not complying with their orders. Kobach’s behavior has been so bad that another attorney has filed an ethics complaint against him.
Even Trump has cut Kobach loose. Kobach was appointed vice chairman of Trump’s Federal Commission on Election Integrity, but after Kobach’s efforts to get states to turn over volumes of sensitive voter data, Trump disbanded the commission amid lawsuits and infighting among the members of the commission. The commission met just twice.
Kobach’s electioneering plans were so toxic that even Trump abandoned him.
Still, polling this month by the Docking Institute shows Kobach has by far the highest name recognition among all candidates for governor. Kobach is known by 85 percent of voters, according to the poll. Independent candidate Greg Orman is a distant second at 57 percent and Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer is third at 55 percent. Of course, the same poll shows Kobach also has the highest negative ratings among voters.
Kobach has been a divisive force in Kansas politics, having spent two terms as a secretary of state singularly focused on discouraging voter participation. He has stubbornly and unapologetically refused to admit or correct the many mistakes he has made.
It’s hard to imagine Kansas voters rewarding Kobach’s record of failure with the governor’s office.