KANSAS CITY, Kan. ― Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) on Thursday offered his first evidence of noncitizens trying to register to vote in a trial challenging a Kansas requirement that people prove their U.S. citizenship to get on the voter rolls.
The evidence was a spreadsheet of 38 instances of alleged illegal voter activity in Sedgwick County that Kobach’s office had compiled over 18 years, from 1999 to 2017. As of 2016, there were more than 293,000 registered voters in Sedgwick County and over 1.8 million in Kansas.
Documents like the spreadsheet will be crucial to Kobach as he makes his case that large numbers of noncitizens are trying to get onto the voting rolls. In order to preserve the Kansas law, he will have to show that noncitizen voter registration is a substantial problem and that nothing short of the state’s proof-of-citizenship law can stop it. Kobach’s office has identified 129 people who have attempted to or successfully registered since 2000, but he says that there could be nearly 18,000 noncitizens on the rolls and that he plans to present more evidence in the trial.
Kobach questioned Tabitha Lehman, the Sedgwick County election commissioner who compiled the spreadsheet data. Of the 38 people on the list, 18 had registered, 16 had attempted to register and four had been allowed to register after a federal judge issued an injunction in 2016 blocking the Kansas proof-of-citizenship law.
Of the 38 people on the list, only five had voted, some multiple times.
Prompted by Kobach, Lehman said there was no way to determine who those illegal voters cast their ballots for or to cancel them after they had been cast. Kobach has argued that Americans may never know who really won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election because there could be millions of illegal voters on the rolls and it’s impossible to know who they voted for ― a claim President Donald Trump has also made. Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by nearly 3 million votes but lost the Electoral College vote. There is no evidence illegal voting is a widespread problem or that it swayed the 2016 election.
From May 2017 until January, Kobach led Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was sued several times for allegedly violating federal procedural laws. The White House disbanded the commission in January.
Angela Liu, a lawyer working with the American Civil Liberties Union to represent the plaintiffs ― five Kansas residents who were not allowed to vote in 2016 ― pressed Lehman on the details of the Sedgwick County spreadsheet. She noted that the 18 noncitizens who had registered over 18 years amounted to an average of one per year. Several of those on the spreadsheet were registered for many years but had never voted.
Liu also suggested the number of people on the list was inflated. She presented Lehman with documents showing that people on the spreadsheet had voluntarily disclosed they were not citizens on their voting applications but Kobach’s office had counted them anyway. Lehman noted many of them had signed an affirmation on their application saying they met all of the requirements to be eligible to vote, including that they were U.S. citizens.
Lehman’s testimony took up the morning of the third day of a trial that is moving forward slowly and is expected to spill over into next week. The ACLU had initially planned to play highly anticipated video of a deposition of Kobach on Thursday, but the parties weren’t able to move quickly enough through witnesses on Thursday.
It’s clear that both parties feel the sluggish pace of the case, and expert witnesses scheduled to testify for days have had to show up each day.
While the public packed the courthouse for the first day of the trial, it was far emptier on Wednesday and Thursday.