A federal judge ruled on Monday that Kansas cannot require a person to prove their U.S. citizenship before they are allowed to vote, reports the New York Times. The rejection of this restrictive voting law was a direct jab at the Kansas secretary of state, Republican Kris W. Kobach.
According to NPR, Chief District Judge Julie A. Robinson ruled that Kobach had failed to prove that a “substantial number” of non-citizens were registered to vote in Kansas. This was a major blow to Kobach, whose entire political career is built on spreading fear about voter fraud, and who is currently a candidate in the Kansas gubernatorial race. He is also a close buddy of Trump’s due to his claims that non-citizens vote in U.S. elections, which match up with Trump’s own immigration policies. However, the Times notes that “experts on election law say that there is no evidence that voter fraud is a pervasive problem.”
Ultimately, this ruling means that for the first time since 2013, citizens in Kansas will not have to prove they are U.S. citizens before registering to vote. Judge Robinson’s 118-page ruling decided that the Kansas law was unconstitutional because it violated the 14th Amendment and the National Voter Registration Act.
Kobach was one of the main driving forces behind the creation of this restrictive voting law. He claims that since 1999, there have been 127 non-citizens who have either attempted to or succeeded in registering to vote, while 43 of them were actually able to register and only 11 voted in an election. Kobach referred to these figures as “the tip of the iceberg” but after reviewing the case, Judge Robison concluded, “There is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error.”
Celia Llopis-Jepson from the Kansas News Service reported for NPR that during the trial, Kobach “denied allegations of voter suppression and put experts on the stand to present polls and surveys that they say show almost all Kansans have easy access to documents like birth certificates.”
However, during the trial, the League of Women Voters of Kansas stated that they faced challenges in helping register young local voters due to the law. At a Washburn University voter registration drive, 400 people attempted to register to vote but only 75 were actually registered after weeks of work.
Judge Robinson’s ruling comes just two months after she held Kobach in contempt of court for disobeying her orders to notify thousands of potentially ineligible voters that they were officially registered and able to vote. Judge Robinson also disapproved of Kobach’s decision to represent his own office in the trial. She wrote that Kobach “chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant.” On top of striking down his restrictive law, she also ordered Kobach to complete six hours of legal education that “must pertain to federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence.”