KANSAS CITY, Kan. ― Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) said on Tuesday that a White House proposal for identifying U.S. voter fraud wouldn’t actually be a reliable way to identify noncitizens on the rolls.
From May 2017 until January, Kobach led the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a probe convened by the White House to investigate voter fraud. The commission asked election officials in all 50 states to provide it with voter roll data, and White House officials said they wanted to compare that information against federal databases to identify noncitizens and duplicate voters. One of those databases was a Department of Homeland Security directory of noncitizens. Officials communicated with DHS while the panel was operational, and when the probe was disbanded in January, Kobach said DHS could run voter information against federal databases of noncitizens to try and identify noncitizens getting on the voter rolls.
But on Tuesday, during his opening statement in a federal lawsuit challenging a restrictive voting law, Kobach said the federal databases could not adequately identify noncitizens on the voting rolls. He said that a DHS database called Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements was intended to assess eligibility for government benefits ― not to verify citizenship.
To use the system effectively, Kobach said, Kansas would have to provide DHS with an alien registration number ― a number assigned to many immigrants for government purposes ― for every voter it wanted to check. But an election official would not ask someone for their alien registration number if they were registering that person to vote, and many immigrants are not assigned such a number in the first place. Experts had warned this would be an unreliable way to assess voter fraud.
Kobach made the comments as part of his argument that nothing short of Kansas’ controversial proof-of-citizenship law can prevent noncitizens from registering to vote. A federal judge stepped in to block the law in 2016, a decision that affected 18,000 people who tried to register to vote when they went to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The decision was upheld by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Kobach had to show there was substantial evidence of noncitizens getting on the rolls in Kansas and that a proof-of-citizenship law was the only way to stop it.
Kobach has identified 129 noncitizens who attempted to register or voted in elections since 2000. He claims there’s evidence that as many as 18,000 noncitizens could be on the rolls. There are more than 1.8 million registered voters in Kansas.
After the White House disbanded the commission in January, it said DHS would take up its work. Kobach initially said information collected by the commission would be transferred to DHS, but officials later said in court filings that the data collected by the commission would be destroyed.