Politics & Government

Kris Kobach says he advised Donald Trump on voter fraud probe, immigration orders

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, meets with then-President-elect Trump in Bedminster, N.J.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, meets with then-President-elect Trump in Bedminster, N.J. File photo

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he advised President Trump to investigate voter fraud and played a role in the early writing of expected executive orders on immigration policy.

Trump promised in a pair of tweets on Wednesday to pursue “a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD” and pointed to people registered in multiple states as one area that he wants to investigate.

Kobach, the only secretary of state in the nation with prosecutorial power, has filed nine cases against people accused of voting in more than one state. Six resulted in guilty pleas, one was dismissed, and two are pending.

“I’ve advised him (Trump) on the issue of voter fraud in multiple forms,” Kobach said Wednesday. “I’m not the only one, but he’s been very interested in finding ways to reduce voter fraud.

“I know that he is interested in investigating the issue on a national scale, but I also know that he would like to see the Justice Department launch specific investigations where there is real serious, specific evidence of voter fraud,” Kobach said.

He called a federal investigation into voter fraud a great idea, saying many incidents are both federal crimes and state crimes.

“During the Bush administration, the Bush Justice Department was very active in going after voter fraud,” said Kobach, who served in the Department of Justice during George W. Bush’s first term. “The Obama administration all but ended federal efforts to go after voter fraud, so it’s entirely appropriate for the Trump Justice Department to restart federal investigations.”

The top election official in Kansas claimed that millions voted illegally in 2016, but can't point to hard evidence to support that. (Nov. 30, 2016/Bryan Lowry/The Wichita Eagle)

Trump has repeatedly made the unsubstantiated claim that millions of illegal votes cast by noncitizens tipped the popular vote in the 2016 election to Democrat Hillary Clinton despite his victory in the Electoral College.

That fraud claim is emphatically rebuffed by the nation’s secretaries of state, who monitor elections, as well as reams of government and academic studies that say occurrences of voter fraud are infinitesimal.

“We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump,” the National Association of Secretaries of State said in a statement Tuesday. “In the lead-up to the November 2016 election, secretaries of state expressed their confidence in the systemic integrity of our election process as a bipartisan group, and they stand behind that statement today.”

Kobach has supported Trump’s claim but has provided no hard evidence.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, who has introduced a bill to strip Kobach of his prosecutorial power, said Kobach has dramatically overstated the frequency of voter fraud during his tenure as Kansas’ secretary of state.

Carmichael noted that Kobach has not brought a single case against a noncitizen for voting illegally. All of the cases he has brought concern U.S. citizens accused of voting in more than one state.

“He has claimed that voter fraud is rampant in this state, but he has little evidence to support that allegation,” Carmichael said. “He has brought charges now against, I believe, nine individuals, all of whom are United States citizens, most of whom are Republicans, and the vast majority of them are white. And his office is now spending approximately a quarter of a million dollars a year prosecuting nine people and defending voting rights lawsuits.”

Kobach has previously pointed to Sedgwick County in support of his claims of noncitizen voting, but federal and state courts have found that example to be insufficient. Eleven noncitizens registered to vote in the county between 2003 and 2010; three cast ballots. Another 14 noncitizens attempted to register after that but were blocked by the state’s proof of citizenship law.

A Shawnee County judge ruled in November that the potential harm posed by “the denial of more than 18,000 individuals’ right to vote far eclipses” the evidence Kobach had presented of potential noncitizen voting. The 18,000 were people who Kobach wanted to block from voting in state and local elections because they had failed to prove they were citizens under the Kansas law.

Kobach said evidence of voter fraud will emerge as he and other state officials study election data.

“A lot of the evidence will be developed weeks after, weeks or months after the fact,” Kobach said. “We haven’t yet run the Crosscheck program. … We’re collecting the data from the 32 participating states right now, and the actual computer check where the 32 states’ voter files are bumped against each other will be done in early February, and that will yield a massive amount of information of people who voted in more than one of those 32 states and so at the point we will have a large number of leads.”

Crosscheck program

Kansas launched the Interstate Crosscheck program under former Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh and expanded it under Kobach.

Kobach said the program, which enables participating states to compare voting files to identify duplicate registrations, has produced the leads in all of the cases he has prosecuted.

Critics say the program has resulted in false positives that have led to rightful voters being taken off the polls in some states. Kobach said participating states are cautioned that it is “just a probable match” and that they must do more investigation before removing a person from the voter rolls.

Asked whether he thought Trump would create a national crosscheck program, Kobach said that would be unnecessary because Kansas can continue to run the program.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and National ACLU attorney Sophia Lakin argued in court over whether the state can legally exclude federally registered voters from state and local elections if they don't provide documented proof. (9/21/2016)

When Kobach met with Trump in November, he was photographed carrying a document that included a partially obscured reference to voting rolls.

That fueled speculation that Trump may seek changes to the National Voter Registration Act, the 1993 law that made it easier to register to vote. The act has served as the basis for federal rulings against Kansas’ requirement that voters must provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register.

Kobach said he was uncertain whether the Trump administration would pursue any changes to the act.

Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said in a statement: “Rather than spending time and resources on investigating something that has already been relentlessly and exhaustively investigated – and found to not exist – policy-makers should spend time trying to make voting easier and more accessible for all American citizens.”

Immigration policy

Kobach advised Trump on immigration policy during the campaign and also served on the president’s transition team.

He would not say whether he might end up with a permanent role in the Trump administration, but he did say he was involved in the “early stages” of writing immigration-related executive orders that Trump signed on Wednesday, among them one to start the construction of a wall along the southern border.

“These executive orders have actually been in the works since before the election. And I was on the Trump transition team during the months up to the election and just after the election,” Kobach said. “They’ve been doing some work putting the final touches on them, and I’ve not been involved in the final stages.”

Contributing: William Douglas of the McClatchy Washington Bureau

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