Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been on vivid display in federal courtrooms over the past year, and his performance there tells Kansas Republicans all they need to know about his capacity to be the next governor of Kansas. He clearly lacks the competence and character to be elected to higher office.
Last week Kobach’s signature “proof-of-citizenship” law was set aside. Federal Judge Julie Robinson, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, ruled that the law infringed on the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the court, that law blocked tens of thousands of eligible citizens from registering to vote and constituted an undue burden on their right to vote. The judge also gave Kobach detailed instructions for informing eligible voters of their right to vote and complying with her orders.
The case had been Kobach’s opportunity to showcase his 2010 campaign claims that “the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.” Instead, courtroom proceedings stripped bare Kobach’s public bloviating on illegal voting and revealed his lack of preparation, inadequacies in assembling evidence, ignorance of judicial procedure, and willful violation of elementary courtroom rules.
In an extraordinary action the judge also ordered Kobach to undergo remedial education as a result of his courtroom ineptitude.
Kobach represented himself in the case and appeared to be heading a band of Keystone Cops that included “expert” witnesses lacking credentials, presenters of flawed research, and ill-prepared election officials. Their testimony was shredded by well-prepared and highly competent plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The case revealed that in nearly the past 20 years not one non-citizen had been charged with trying to register to vote in Kansas. Only one had been convicted of illegally voting in that time period. That compares to over 30,000 eligible voters placed in suspension by Kobach and his prized legislation.
Last April, before the current case was decided, Judge Robinson found Kobach in contempt of court and fined him over $50,000 in court costs for violating her earlier court order. In that instance Kobach had failed to inform suspended voters that they were eligible to vote. The Kansas House passed a bill requiring Kobach to pay that bill personally but later backed off.
Last year in federal court Kobach was reprimanded and fined $1,000 for “patently misleading representations” in defending his convoluted two-tier voting scheme.
Lawsuits cling to Kobach like flypaper. President Trump established a voter integrity commission as an opportunity for Kobach to document claims of illegal voting but within months disbanded the commission as legal challenges piled up. Last week Kobach was sued again over his negligent disclosure of private information on a 1,000 Kansas voters.
Some Republicans may admire zealotry in prosecuting voting fraud by non-citizens. But after seven years in office Kobach appeared in court ill-prepared and lacking in evidence. In his reckless quest he has been cited in contempt of court for repeated misleading representations, defiance of court orders, and violations of judicial procedure.
Kansas Republicans should expect their nominee for governor to demonstrate competence in office and integrity with respect to the rule of law. Kobach’s courtroom antics show him to be utterly deficient on both counts.
H. Edward Flentje is professor emeritus at Wichita State University and served with Kansas Govs. Bennett and Hayden.