Kris Kobach, voter-fraud obsessive and Jason Sudeikis attic portrait, sent a letter to officials in all states on Thursday, requesting detailed voter registration data.
As of Friday, at least four states had issued their responses — all of which could be summed up as telling Kobach, who made the request in his capacity as vice chairman of the president's commission on electoral integrity, to take his letter and cram it.
Perhaps no elected official in the nation is as obsessed with the belief that illegal votes are being cast in large numbers in American elections as Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas. He has crusaded for tighter voting restrictions since his election in 2010. In 2011, he helped push through the Kansas legislature a law requiring would-be voters to show birth certificates, passports, or naturalization papers when registering to vote.
The ACLU has sued Kobach multiple times over this law and his other voter-suppression efforts, which it says have the practical effect of disenfranchising thousands of citizens from exercising their right to vote. All while turning up zero evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in Kansas. Or the rest of America, for that matter.
Despite this, Kobach has pursued electoral fraud cases with a zeal that would make Inspector Javert say, “Whoa, take it down a notch, buddy.” Since 2015, when he became the only secretary of state in the country with the authority to personally prosecute voter fraud cases, he has won nine convictions on misdemeanor charges. According to a recent profile of Kobach in The New York Times, most of those convicted were senior citizens who had residences in two states and were confused about where they should vote.
Not exactly the swarm of undocumented immigrants Kobach claims are voting everywhere, is it?
The aims of Kobach's endless pursuit is clear: To tighten voting laws and purge the rolls of poor and minority voters who are least able to provide the required documentation. This makes the general electorate whiter and more conservative, and thus more likely to vote Republican.
Had Donald Trump not won November's election, it is likely Kobach's influence would remain limited to irritating, confused 70-year-olds in Wichita and helping other states lose lawsuits that attempt the same suppression tactics he applied in Kansas.
Luckily for Kobach, Trump shares his irrational fear of widespread voter fraud. The president has long been convinced he only lost the popular vote last November because three to five million people voted illegally. And to soothe his own insecure ego about that fact, he established his commission on electoral integrity, nominally headed by Vice President Mike Pence, with Kobach as the vice chair and driving force.
Which brings us back to Thursday's letter. The commission is requesting information that, in at least some states, is considered private. Not only that, elected officials in those states who know Kobach's history see his request as the first step in an all-out assault on voting rights. And they are not being shy about saying so.
Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, while saying he has no intention of complying with the request, called it a “specious and false notion” that there was widespread voter fraud in the last election. California's secretary of state, Alex Padilla, announced he will not turn over the requested data. (That in particular should drive Trump nuts, since he believes most of the illegal votes for Hillary Clinton were cast in California.) Kentucky's Alison Lundergan Grimes may as well have just said, “Why, bless your heart.”
Other states, including Connecticut and North Carolina, told Kobach they would only turn over already-public information. Anything considered private under state law will remain locked away.
There is no word yet on how the Trump administration plans to deal with recalcitrant states that feel protecting their citizens' rights is more important than letting the president and Kris Kobach use them to try and corral the bats presently flitting through their belfries. But considering Kobach's obsession has yet to be swayed by decades of facts, expect a long fight.
This is a commentary piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.