Kansas AG takes over appeal of Kobach’s voting rights case; governor says state intends to win

photo by: Associated Press

In this file photo from Feb. 2, 2016, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt answers questions at the Statehouse in Topeka. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA — Gov. Jeff Colyer said Thursday that he thinks the state has a good chance of winning an appeal of a federal court ruling striking down a state law requiring people to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote, especially now that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office has taken over the case.

“I think the attorney general will do a fine job, and I intend to win this. I think it’s an opportunity for us to win this thing,” Colyer told reporters Thursday.

The attorney general’s office filed an entry of appearance and formal notice of appeal on Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s behalf earlier this week. Both documents were signed by Solicitor General Toby Crouse. Throughout the trial of the case, Kobach himself had defended the lawsuit, along with other attorneys in his office.

“As was contemplated from the start of this case, and as is provided by law, the attorney general’s office has assumed the role of lead counsel for the state’s appeal in defense of the voter-registration statute that the district court in Fish v. Kobach declared unconstitutional and in violation of the National Voter Registration Act,” Schmidt’s office said in an email statement. “The attorney general has conferred with the secretary of state, who has agreed to provide such assistance on appeal as may be requested by the attorney general.”

The statement went on to say that the attorney general’s office is only handling the appeal of the district court’s decision in that case and not the sanctions that the trial judge imposed on Kobach for his conduct during the trial.

“All further proceedings in the district court, including any required reporting to the court, remain the responsibility of the secretary of state’s office,” the statement read.

On June 18, Judge Julie Robinson struck down portions of a law that Kobach had championed in 2011 requiring all people registering to vote for the first time in a county to show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship.

Kobach pushed for the law immediately after coming into office in 2011, saying it was necessary to prevent noncitizens from voting, something he argued had happened frequently in the past.

But Robinson said the evidence presented during the trial did not support that claim and that the few cases that were demonstrated were outweighed by the tens of thousands of qualified voters who had their registrations blocked for failing to provide the required documents.

Also during the trial phase of the case, she held Kobach in contempt of court for failing to carry out orders she had issued, and in the end she ordered Kobach to complete at least six hours of additional continuing legal education focusing on civil procedure.

Colyer and Kobach are both vying for the Republican nomination for governor in the upcoming Aug. 7 primary. Also competing in that race are Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer and former state Sen. Jim Barnett.

Schmidt is unopposed for the GOP nomination for attorney general but will face Lawrence Democrat Sarah Swain in the general election.


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