Kobach files late response in federal suit

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was several days late filing a response to a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn one of his signature policies, but plaintiffs in the case say they won’t make an issue out of it.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the state’s proof of citizenship law, which Kobach championed in 2011. It also seeks to block a new regulation he enacted that would result in canceling some 30,000 incomplete voter registrations that have been held in suspense because the applicants failed to provide the required citizenship proof.

Mark P. Johnson, lead attorney in the case of Cromwell, et al. vs. Kobach, said his clients would rather win on the merits of the case than on a procedural technicality.

“Although the Plaintiffs could move to strike the Answer and seek a default judgment, such tactics would not be conducive to the court’s consideration of the important matters in this case,” Johnson wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. “The Plaintiffs strongly believe that their case has merit, and the Court will so find after a full presentation of the facts and the law.”

The plaintiffs filed their complaint Oct. 2. Under procedural rules, Kobach was supposed to have 21 days to respond to the complaint, putting the deadline at Oct. 23. His response wasn’t filed until Oct. 29.

Johnson, who practices in the Kansas City office of Dentons US, LLP, law firm in Kansas City, Mo., is also a Kansas University law professor. Also involved in the case is former Democratic Rep. Paul Davis of Lawrence who, as a legislator, voted in favor of the controversial voting law. He says that’s because he favored another provision requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could not deny registration to voters who registered using a federal form that does not ask for proof of citizenship. Since then, Kobach has instituted a “dual” election system in which voters using that form are allowed to vote in federal elections, but not in state or local elections.

A separate case challenging that policy is pending in state court in Shawnee County.