Kris Kobach is no longer Kansas’ secretary of state and thus is no longer engaged in a day-to-day battle to disenfranchise minority voters. But his legacy got another bit of tarnish as a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a trial judge’s declaration that the proof-of-citizenship law for voter registration that was Kobach’s signature accomplishment violated constitutional equal-protection rights and was also preempted by federal motor-voter laws.
You may recall that trial, in 2018, because the judge involved was so incensed by Kobach’s sloppy handling of the case that she ordered him to undertake additional legal education. His successor didn’t fare much better in the Tenth Circuit, which found no reason to question the trial judge’s determination that non-citizenship voting in Kansas was negligible at most and that 31,000 qualified voters had been denied the right to vote for failure to supply the required documentation.
Election law expert Rick Hasen called this decision and its lower-court predecessor “a huge victory for voters:”
As the 10th circuit noted, unlike voter identification cases where it sometimes has been hard for plaintiffs to prove that the law burdens most voters, this law literally disenfranchised tens of thousands of people.
Voter-suppression efforts with weak rationales but that place heavy burdens on voters won’t fare well in courts, even in the Trump era.
Kobach has moved on. After his defeat in the 2018 gubernatorial general election to Democrat Joan Kelly, he’s now running for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Pat Roberts. Republicans are sufficiently concerned that Kobach will again lose a general election, perhaps endangering GOP control of the Senate, that state party officials are trying to get nonviable candidates to drop out of the August primary so as to make it less likely that Trump’s friend will win over a divided field with a relatively small percentage of the vote. So far, it’s not working; thus Kobach may be cruising toward another primary win and then another November bruising, leaving Kansas Republicans more prone than ever to wish the nativist demagogue were operating his patent medicine show elsewhere.