Editorial: Kobach merits severe rebuke
Let’s hope that a new secretary of state will soon move Kansas in a direction that encourages voting.
The ACLU is pummeling Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in court. If the case were a boxing match, the referee would have stepped in, put his arms around a bloodied Kobach and ended the fight out of mercy.
As it stands, Kobach suffered a technical knockout this week when U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson not only struck down Kobach’s signature voter identification law but also ordered the Republican gubernatorial hopeful to take classes on basic legal procedures.
In a 118-page ruling, Robinson said a Kansas law that requires new voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that requires states to provide equal protection under the law.
Passed in 2011 at Kobach’s urging, Kansas’ voter registration law was among the most stringent in the country. It took effect in 2013 and was in place during the 2014 elections. Since then, estimates are that more than 10,000 people attempting to register to vote have had their registrations blocked because of the law.
Just ahead of the 2016 elections, Robinson issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the law against people who signed up to vote when they renewed their driver’s licenses.
In her latest ruling, Robinson ordered the Secretary of State’s Office not to enforce the law against any voter registration applications in Kansas. Citing what she called Kobach’s history of avoiding the court’s instructions, she spelled out specific steps the secretary of state’s office must follow to ensure that all voters are registered in the same way.
Robinson also ordered Kobach to attend at least six hours of continuing legal education courses on civil rules of procedure and evidence, citing numerous violations of those rules when he represented the state during trial in March.
The ACLU issued a statement calling Robinson’s decision “a stinging rebuke of Kris Kobach, and the centerpiece of his voter suppression efforts.”
Kobach can appeal the ruling and has indicated in the past that he would do so. But at this point, his views seem irrelevant.
In a few months, Kansas voters will choose a new secretary of state who will guide the state’s approach, to the ACLU lawsuit and voting in Kansas in general. Given how badly Kobach’s initiatives have fared in legal challenges, let’s hope the next secretary can move Kansas in a new direction that encourages, rather than suppresses, voting.