Do not veil the truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth knowingly.
—The Koran, Chapter 1
Maybe Kansas deserves Kris Kobach. He is running to become the next governor of Kansas. He looks great on paper. He graduated with top honors from Harvard, attended Oxford where he got an M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics, and from there went on to graduate from Yale Law School and become a lawyer. A paper trail, as good as it is, means little when considering Mr. Kobach. His actions since graduation belie his academic accomplishments. To appreciate his most recent brush with the law and a federal judge who held him in contempt of court, it helps to recall two of his unfortunate encounters with the truth, insofar as they pertain to his perception that there is rampant voter fraud in the United States.
In 2013, the Kansas legislature enacted the Secure and Fair Elections Law that imposed proof of citizenship requirements on anyone seeking to register to vote. Mr. Kobach believed the Kansas statute was necessary because, as he repeatedly said, there was widespread voter fraud in Kansas. Federal District Court Judge Julie Robinson, who heard the case when an action was brought to prevent the act from being enforced in 2016, disagreed with Mr. Kobach. She not only ruled that proof of citizenship could not be required of those registering to vote, but ordered Mr. Kobach to take steps to make sure those affected by the statute were notified of their right to vote. In her order she also commented on Mr. Kobach’s concerns about wide-spread voter fraud. She said, “There is evidence of only three instances where noncitizens actually voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013.” She went on to observe that during that same period, about 14 noncitizens attempted to register to vote.
The steps Mr. Kobach agreed to take pursuant to Judge Robinson’s order that he notify those who had sought unsuccessfully to register were very specific. Some months later, but before the 2016 election took place, it was brought to the court’s attention that Mr. Kobach had not followed through on his promises to the court. A hearing was scheduled in which Mr. Kobach faced the prospect of being cited for contempt for failing to obey the order. A day before it was to take place, Mr. Kobach agreed that his office would do what he had already promised but failed to do, and the contempt hearing was vacated. That, for a time, put the Kansas case to the side. It was not, however, the end of Mr. Kobach’s travails.
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On May 11, 2017, Mr. Trump created the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity. Its chair was Vice President Michael Pence. Mr. Kobach was second-in-command. In a puffed up statement about his belief in eliminating voter fraud, he said: “As the chief election officer of a state, ensuring the integrity of elections is my number one priority. The work of this commission will assist all state elections officers in understanding and addressing the problem of voter fraud.” His ability to detect voter fraud was soon demonstrated. After a short time on the Commission (it was dissolved less than 9 months after it was created) Mr. Kobach proudly announced that he had discovered 5,511 unregistered voters who had voted in New Hampshire in the 2016 election. As it turned out, his discovery did not prove there was voter fraud. It proved that Mr. Kobach did not understand the New Hampshire statute that prescribed the procedures for registering to vote. The 5,511 voters he identified as ineligible to vote, were in fact all eligible.
The commission on which Mr. Kobach served was disbanded by Mr. Trump on Jan. 3, 2018. Thereafter, Mr. Kobach returned to Kansas, where further legal proceedings awaited him. Those proceedings gave him an opportunity to explain to Judge Robinson why he had failed to obey the order she had given him about sending notification to those who had not been permitted to register. Following that hearing, Judge Robinson issued a lengthy ruling in which she found Mr. Kobach to be in contempt of court. In her ruling, she said Mr. Kobach’s explanation of why notice was not sent to prospective voters was “disingenuous.” She observed that Mr. Kobach “has a history of noncompliance with the preliminary injunction order. ...He not only willfully failed to comply with the preliminary injunction for five months, but then only complied...upon the threat of contempt.” Continuing her observations about Mr. Kobach, she observed, “The court is troubled by [Kobach’s] failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished.”
After the hearing had taken place, Mr. Kobach commented on the fact that Judge Robinson found him to be in contempt. In an interview with Breitbart News, he said her finding was “ridiculous.”
Mr. Kobach hopes to become Kansas’s next governor. Voters in that state will have the opportunity to decide if Judge Robinson’s finding is ridiculous. They may conclude that it would be more ridiculous to vote into the governor’s office a man of Kris Kobach’s limited integrity.