Kris William Kobach is the Secretary of State of Kansas as well as counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He is the de facto leader of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, convened by President Donald Trump in May 2017 to investigate election confidence. Prior to being elected Kansas Secretary of State in 2010, Kobach was the chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. Kobach announced in June 2017 that he is running for Governor of Kansas.
Kobach has been called the "King of Voter Suppression" by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho, who also called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity a "sham."
Kobach was tapped to join President-elect Donald Trump's immigration policy transition team on November 10, 2016 and was under consideration to head the Department of Homeland Security. He was reportedly under consideration for the post again after Secretary John Kelly was made White House Chief of Staff in July 2017.
- 1 Controversial Pence-Kobach Voting Commission "Lays the Groundwork for Mass Voter Purging"
- 2 Ties to ALEC
- 3 "Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days" Revealed in Photograph with Trump
- 4 Kobach Behind Voter Suppression Tool Called the "Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program"
- 5 References
Controversial Pence-Kobach Voting Commission "Lays the Groundwork for Mass Voter Purging"
President Donald Trump chose Kris Kobach to lead his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity alongside Vice President Mike Pence in May 2017 -- supposedly to investigate election confidence -- after repeatedly suggesting that voter fraud cost him the popular vote against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, a claim Kobach has also made repeatedly (Hillary Clinton won the 2016 popular vote by more than 2 million votes).
Numerous studies have shown that voter fraud is statistically close to non-existent. But as Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach created a national system for checking voter rolls that critics have said allows too many legitimate voters to be purged (see below for more); and when Pence was governor of Indiana, State Police raided and closed a voter project working to register minority voters.
The perfunctorily bipartisan committee -- made up of six Republicans (formerly seven) and four Democrats -- issued a directive to all states in late June 2017 requesting publicly available voter data such as full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, last-four digits of Social Security numbers, and voting history starting in 2006.
Critics were appalled: Vanita Gupta, who ran the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, said that the letter "lays the groundwork for mass voter purging." At least 27 states pushed back. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement, "I have no intention of honoring this request... [T]here is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia. This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump's alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression."
"In a rare display of bipartisanship, officials in nearly every state have said they will partially or fully refuse to comply with President Donald Trump's voting commission, which has encountered criticism and opposition after issuing a sweeping request for voter data nationwide," the Chicago Tribune reported in early July 2017.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit against the Pence-Kobach commission and successfully obtained a temporary restraining order on its state information request, calling the commission's plans "without precedent and crazy" and alleging they "would increase the risks to the privacy of millions of registered voters -- including in particular military families whose home addresses would be revealed -- and would undermine the integrity of the federal election system."
Kobach responded to such criticism -- including a call to remove him from the presidential commission -- by calling it "ridiculous" and continuing to defend his widely-disproven claims about supposed voter fraud.
Ties to ALEC
In 2016, Kobach claimed that he was trying to get ALEC to be more active in pushing voter ID restrictions, even though in 2009 corporate lobbyists and legislators voted to make such restrictions a national model bill after President Obama was elected. In 2012, in the midst of the PR disaster at ALEC over its role in spreading so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun bills, ALEC temporarily disbanded its corporate-legislator task force that had approved extreme gun bills and voter restrictions, but ALEC did not take any steps to get those bills repealed where they had been enacted.
Kobach claims: "I've been trying to get the American Legislative Exchange Council interested in photo ID and proof of citizenship... They never called me and said, 'Hey, Kobach, would you do this?' I’ve been trying to get them off their backside and get them encouraging other states to do it." This was Kobach's responsed to a critic who called him an "ALEC pawn" during his weekly radio show, although it side-stepped the fact that ALEC spent years peddling measures to make it harder for Americans to vote along the lines that Kobach has urged.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.
Kobach Helped Write Arizona's Controversial and Unconstitutional SB 1070 Anti-Immigrant Law
Kobach helped write the controversial anti-immigrant bill Arizona SB 1070, which was title "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act". It was later struck down in part by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (R), at the time a leader of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), was a main sponsor of the bill. But before that bill was introduced in the statehouse, Pearce secretly submitted a version of his proposed legislation, the "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act," to ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force. At that meeting, corporate lobbyists, special interest groups, and legislators voted to make it ALEC "model legislation" for the nation -- without the press or public present to see that secret vote.
ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force was temporarily disbanded in 2012, but at the time the bill that later became known as SB 1070 was approved by ALEC, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a for-profit prison operator, was a member of the task force. CCA "had identified immigrant detention as a profit center important for its future growth." (CCA claims it was at the meeting where the bill was approved but that it did not vote on the bill, unlike the other corporations, even though corporations routinely vote on bills at ALEC task force meetings and CCA previously chaired that ALEC task force.)
Pearce claimed he sought out Kobach, who had been an aide to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and who took credit for helping to implement the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) that created new interview requirements for nationals of 25 countries who sought entry to the U.S. or were present here. That program was heavily criticized by civil liberties and civil rights groups as profiling Muslims (the only country on the list that does not have a large Muslim population was North Korea). (NSEERS was suspended in 2011 and replaced by US-VISIT, which uses biometric data to check against U.S. watchlists.)
When Kobach ran for Kansas Secretary of State, he proudly billed himself on his campaign website as an attorney who "litigates against the ACLU in courts across the country."
Kobach is described as a 'national expert on constitutional law' at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), a subsidiary organization of the controversial group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). IRLI and FAIR are both funded in part by the Pioneer Fund, an organization that unabashedly studies the 'science' of eugenics.
According to both Kobach and Pearce, SB 1070, Arizona's immigration bill, was not drafted by IRLI or FAIR. "The initial first draft of the bill was done by the legislators in the Arizona legislature who were coming up with a broad template of what they wanted to achieve. I was brought in at that point to advise on what was possible and what wasn't possible, and to refine the language to make sure it stands up in court," said Kobach who weighed-in on the Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona case with an amicus brief, as did Pearce. Despite Kobach’s claim that his role was to make the broad powers created by the bill constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of it.
After being adopted as an ALEC "model" in 2008, at least three other states have passed nearly identical versions of the proof-of-citizenship bill, and other states have introduced it. Kansas passed its version of 2011, with the support of Kobach who by then had been elected Secretary of State there.
"Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days" Revealed in Photograph with Trump
A photo-op with Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower offered a glimpse into Kris Kobach's one-year plan to head the Department of Homeland Security, notes Politico. The high-resolution image, shot by an AP photographer, shows Kobach holding a folder in his left hand, on top of which appears to be his plan for the first year of the Department of Homeland Security if he were to receive the nomination. The document, which was partially obscured by Kobach's arm, reads as follows:
Department of Homeland Security Kobach Strategic Plan For First 365 Days
Bar entry of Potential Terrorists
1.) Update and reintroduce the NSEERs screening and tracking system (National Entry-Exit Registration System) that was in place from 2002-2005. All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked.
2.) Add extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens; question them regarding support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution.
3.) Reduce intake of Syrian refugees to zero, using authority under the 1980 Refugee Act.
"Though the first word of the next section is covered, Kobach is likely calling for the incoming administration to deport a 'Record Number of Criminal Aliens in the First Year,'" according to Politico.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Less legible on Kobach's document, but still visible, are mentions of its definition of 'criminal alien' ('any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member'); the phrase '386 miles of existing actual wall'; the Patriot Act; and 'Draft Amendment to National Voter ....' It's possible this line refers to the National Voter Registration Act."
Refusal to Release Trump Documents in Response to ACLU Lawsuit
As part of an ongoing lawsuit over Kansas' voter ID law, the ACLU asked a Kansas federal judge to "unseal documents that Kobach was photographed holding when he met with Trump in November 2016, as well as a draft amendment to federal voting law, which circulated in his office" because they "contain potential amendments to the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 law requiring motor vehicle and some other state agencies to provide opportunities to register to vote," according to the Huffington Post.
Kobach initially refused to release the documents -- although he was later forced to do so by a U.S. magistrate judge -- or answer questions about them under oath in a closed deposition. The court fined Kobach $1,000 for misleading the court about the contents of the documents and ordered him to testify about them. The ACLU called Kobach's appeal of the deposition order "bizarre."
Kobach Behind Voter Suppression Tool Called the "Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program"
In January 2013, Kobach spoke with the National Association of State Election Directors about combating alleged voter fraud. Kobach discussed the "Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program," (known as Crosscheck) claiming the system had uncovered 697,537 "potential duplicate voters" in 15 states. Thirteen states eventually handed their voter files over to Kobach's office.
Crosscheck is one of the responses to the the Republican myth of widespread voter fraud. "Twenty-eight participating states share their voter lists and... Crosscheck supposedly matches first, middle and last name, plus birth date, and provides the last four digits of a Social Security number for additional verification," according to Greg Palast, author of the 2014 book Ballot Bandits.
Mark Swedlund, a database expert, analyzed what is known about Crosscheck and concluded that Crosscheck's "childish methodology" disproportionately targets minority voters, those most likely to vote for Democrats. "I can't tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities," Swedlund told Palast.
According to Greg Palast in an article published by Rolling Stone:
Swedlund's statistical analysis found that African-American, Latino and Asian names predominate, a simple result of the Crosscheck matching process, which spews out little more than a bunch of common names. No surprise: The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names. If your name is Washington, there's an 89 percent chance you're African-American. If your last name is Hernandez, there's a 94 percent chance you're Hispanic. If your name is Kim, there's a 95 percent chance you're Asian. This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list... Every voter that the state marks as a legitimate match receives a postcard that is colorless and covered with minuscule text. The voter must verify his or her address and mail it back to their secretary of state. Fail to return the postcard and the process of taking your name off the voter rolls begins. This postcard game amplifies Crosscheck's built-in racial bias. According to the Census Bureau, white voters are 21 percent more likely than blacks or Hispanics to respond to their official requests; homeowners are 32 percent more likely to respond than renters; and the young are 74 percent less likely than the old to respond. Those on the move – students and the poor, who often shift apartments while hunting for work – will likely not get the mail in the first place.
Palast stated that the the Crosscheck program had identified over 7 million "duplicate voters" as of August 2016, but his analysis published in Rolling Stone found no more than four cases of someone charged with double voting or deliberate double registration.
- Sam Levine, Leader Of Voter Fraud Probe Really Doesn't Want To Release Trump Meeting Documents, Huffington Post, July 29, 2017.
- American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU to Trump: Signing Order Will Not Make Voter Fraud Fantasy a Reality, organizational press release, May 11, 2017.
- Curtis Lee, An immigration hard-liner is joining Donald Trump's transition team, The Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2016.
- Ed Kilgore, Kris Kobach Wants a Promotion. But Will He Run for Governor or Join Trump’s Cabinet?, New York Magazine" "Daily Intelligencer" blog, July 31, 2017.
- Robert Faturechi and Eric Lipton, Clay Pigeons: How Lobbyists Secretly Woo Top Election Officials, ProPublica and the New York Times, November 4, 2016.
- U.S. White House Office of the Press Secretary, Presidential Executive Order on the Establishment of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, executive order, May 11, 2017.
- U.S. White House Office of the Vice President, Readout of the Vice President's Call with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, press release, June 28, 2017.
- Mark Berman and John Wagner, Almost every state resists Trump's voter fraud commission, Chicago Tribune, July 5, 2017.
- Brian Tashman, Kris Kobach, the Man Charged With Enhancing Americans' Confidence in Elections, Says That We May Never Know Who Won The Election, American Civil Liberties Union blog, July 26, 2017.
- Tal Kopan, Pence-Kobach voting commission alarms states with info request, CNN, July 1, 2017.
- Miranda S. Spivack, Pence has a history with 'voter fraud', Newsday, June 17, 2017.
- Christopher Ingraham, Here are the first 10 members of Trump's voting commission, Washington Post "Wonkblog", July 6, 2017.
- Kia Makarechi, Did Trump Just Begin Laying the Groundwork for "Mass Voter Purging"?, Vanity Fair, June 30, 2017.
- United States District Court for the District of Columbia, EPIC v Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Plaintiff's Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, filed July 3, 2017.
- Lindsey Ellefson, Kobach defends voter commission: Criticisms 'ridiculous', CNN, July 19, 2017.
- Miranda Blue, American Legislative Exchange Council: Kris Kobach Wants His Disastrous Voting Restrictions Adopted In Every State, People for the American Way, accessed November 23, 2016.
- Brendan Fischer, ALEC Disbands Task Force Responsible for Stand Your Ground, Voter ID, Prison Privatization, AZ's SB 1070, PRWatch.org, April 17, 2012.
- Beau Hodai, Brownskins and Greenbacks: ALEC, the For-Profit Prison Industry and Arizona’s SB 1070, PRWatch.org, August 22, 2011.
- Southern Poverty Law Center, Pioneer Fund, organizational website, accessed November 23, 2016.
- Brendan Fischer, U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Another ALEC Voting Bill, PRWatch.org, June 17, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, As Supreme Court Hears Challenge to ALEC Voting Bill, Two More States Introduce It, PRWatch.org, March 25, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, Officials in Arizona and Kansas Rig Ballots to Implement ALEC Voter Suppression Scheme, PrWatch.org, October 10, 2013.
- Nolan D. McCaskill, AP photographer reveals Kobach's hard-line plans for DHS, Politico, November 21, 2016.
- Colleen Shalby, World gets glimpse of deportation plan Kris Kobach took to meeting with Trump, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2016.
- Roxana Hegeman, Associated Press, Kris Kobach tries to avoid answering questions under oath, The Topeka-Capital Journal, August 1, 2017.
- Joan McCarter, Kris Kobach has yet another plan to rig the election for Republicans, Daily Kos, August 25, 2016.
- Greg Palast, The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters, Rolling Stone, August 24, 2016.