Voting-Rights Foe Kris Kobach’s Very Bad Day in Federal Court

Kris Kobach lost a challenge to his prize voter-ID law, and then got sent off to the legal equivalent of after-school detention for his behavior in court. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A politician less hammer-headed than Kansas secretary of State Kris Kobach might have curled up in a ball and whimpered after the day he had in federal court yesterday. District Judge Julie Robinson (a George W. Bush appointee) decisively declared Kobach’s pet voter-ID law unconstitutional, and then ordered him to take some continuing legal education classes because he kept ignoring the basic rules of evidence and discovery during the proceedings in her court.

The provision being tested as a violation of both the federal motor-voter law and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment required applicants for voter registration to supply proof of citizenship. The justification for this new burden on registration was an alleged epidemic of voter fraud. The failure of the now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (run by Kobach as vice-chairman under Mike Pence) to come up with significant evidence of voter fraud was not improved upon in this case, as Robinson concluded:

Federal District Judge Julie A. Robinson of Kansas, who presided over the trial earlier this year in which Mr. Kobach represented himself, said in her 188-page ruling that while there was evidence of a “small number of noncitizen registrations in Kansas, it is largely explained by administrative error, confusion, or mistake.”

During the trial in March in Kansas City, Kan., Mr. Kobach argued that while there had been a relatively small number of noncitizens in Kansas who had tried to vote, he believed that they were only “the tip of the iceberg.”

In her ruling, Judge Robinson dismissed Mr. Kobach’s claim. “Instead, the Court draws the more obvious conclusion that there is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error,” she wrote.

The order requiring Kobach to refresh his understanding of court procedures wasn’t the first sharp rebuke of the nativist pol in this case. In April Robinson held him in contempt for ignoring an earlier order to register voters who did not supply proof of citizenship while the challenge was pending.

But then legal setbacks and derision from his many critics has never much inhibited Kobach in the past. Right now, his main focus is his campaign to become governor of Kansas; the first big step is a primary on August 7. Polls show him in a close race with incumbent Jeff Colyer, who got the job earlier this year when Sam Brownback took a diplomatic position with the Trump administration. Kobach’s main asset, other than his base of support among serious MAGA people, is high name-ID. And that can only go higher every time he defends his obnoxious policies in court or in the court of public opinion, no matter how ridiculous he looks to us wiseacres.

Voting Rights Foe Kris Kobach’s Bad Day in Federal Court