DonkeyHotey / Flickr Kris Kobach Caricature...
DonkeyHotey / Flickr

They told him no.

Republican Kobach, who is secretary of state in Kansas and a candidate for the governorship, is engaged in a federal court battle with the American Civil Liberties Union in a voting rights trial that could last a week or more and has nationwide implications. He asked the guards if they could allow him to bring a pistol and check it with them while court proceedings are underway. Nothing doing, they told him. As my colleague Chris Reeves wondered this morning, who exactly does Kobach fear? The ACLU? The League of Women Voters?

The issue at hand is a Kansas law Kobach pushed into existence that requires people registering to vote to present either a birth certificate or a passport to prove they are U.S. citizens. He and others who back the law say this prevents non-citizens from casting ballots. But foes say the requirement is an unfair obstacle to legitimate voters and point out that non-citizen voting is a rare occurrence. The law, they say, makes registration a pain for people whose right to vote isn’t at question.

The law has been in litigation for years. In 2016, a federal judge kept it from being fully enforced. The outcome of the trial will determine whether it will be enforced this year and in the future. A ruling from the bench in its favor could see the law being passed in many other states.

In Kansas alone, this could affect an estimated 16,000 to 22,000 potential voters. The key argument raised by the ACLU is that Kobach has no right to require proof of citizenship under the National Voter Registration Act of 1992, widely known as the motor voter law, because it mandates that states provide an opportunity to register to vote when people obtain or renew their driver’s licenses or visit other government offices.

Kobach says he has uncovered 129 noncitizens who tried to register or voted in elections since 2000, and he claims as many as 18,000 noncitizens may appear on the voter rolls in Kansas.

On Tuesday, in addition to serious issues, Kobach made news by asking a witness if he had tweeted that Kobach is a “shit sandwich.” That produced some guffaws, much Twitter traffic, and, apparently, a moment of pondering for editors who hadn’t yet addressed the language issue when Donald Trump made his infamous “shithole countries” comment in January.

On Wednesday, Kobach sought to block the showing of a video deposition by the ACLU. But Judge Julie Robinson ruled only to delay the showing until Thursday to give Kobach’s team a chance to review it.

Bryan Lowry reported:

The first witness called during the trial’s second day was Marge Ahrens, a former co-president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, who testified on the law’s impact to voter registration drives after the law took effect in 2013.

“It was a dead hit. It was absolutely a blow… The League was really knocked off its feet,” Ahrens said. “We stopped registering voters. It was just that pure and simple.”

Ahrens explained that the extra requirements limited the ability of League volunteers to register high school and college students.

Consequences? In 2014, the league registered 4,000 new voters. In 2016, just 400.

Kobach was, from May until January, the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. It was charged with proving Pr*sident Trump’s claims that 3-5 million people voted illegally in 2016, which he has suggested as the reason Hillary Clinton beat the pants off him in the popular vote for the presidency.

The commission had collided with Democratic state authorities who refused to release voter information. Consequently, Trump abolished it in January and sent the matter to the Department of Homeland Security to look into instead. That probably means Immigration and Customs Enforcement will take over what the commission has been doing, trying to match state voter rolls to federal databases of non-citizens. Even though ICE has zero expertise in dealing with voter fraud.

Whatever Robinson rules, the case will almost certainly be appealed.

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