Kobach registers 2 suspended Douglas County voters, asks court to dismiss suit; attorney claims he’s trying to evade judicial review

In this file photo from November 2014, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach testifies during a meeting of a legislative study committee on election issues.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office began registering two Douglas County men to vote just days after they sued Kobach to stop him from purging them and thousands of others from the state’s controversial suspended voters’ list.

Kobach announced Tuesday in a motion he filed with the federal court asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit that his office had completed Alder Cromwell’s registration that day, and Cody Keener had been registered Oct. 6, just six days after their lawsuit was filed.

In his motion, Kobach said he used records from vital statistics to identify Cromwell, an Oregon State University student, and Keener, as U.S. citizens.

The men are actively registered and “suffer no current injury…” Kobach wrote in the motion. “This case must be dismissed for lack of standing.”

Kobach’s spokesman did not return a call requesting an interview.

But one of the men’s attorneys, Will Lawrence, said Kobach appeared to be “playing games” with voters’ rights.

“Obviously we are happy that our two clients are registered to vote but it’s more than these two individuals who are being affected,” Lawrence said. “If Kobach can just go in and get this done, why not do this for everyone?”

Lawrence said there will still be a hearing in federal court.

Cromwell, whose father is former Lawrence City Commissioner Aron Cromwell, and Keener could not be reached for comment.

The database of suspended voters had more than 36,000 names of those who had tried to register to vote but didn’t have all the necessary paperwork.

In early October, Kobach’s office had initiated a new rule that required suspended voters to provide proof of citizenship within 90 days or their names would be purged from the list. Before the new rule, voters had until the next election to provide that information.

Lawrence said this was not the first time that Kobach’s office had registered a suspended voter under pressure. Last year, for example, the daughter of Kobach’s primary opponent, Scott Morgan of Lawrence, was notified that she had failed to produce necessary documents to prove her citizenship even though she had provided a passport. She was registered within minutes after the Wichita Eagle asked Kobach about it, the newspaper reported.

Kobach seems to take action when there is an imminent news story, Lawrence said.

“We will see what the judge does with it,” Lawrence said. “I don’t think this is something the courts are going to look at and be happy about. It’s pretty clear what the intent seems to be here. The intent is to evade judicial review of the law, and that is inappropriate.”

Lawrence is part of a team of attorneys that includes Paul Davis, a Lawrence attorney and former gubernatorial candidate.