A nasty spat between Hillary Clinton and Kris Kobach, Kansas’ top elections official, is offering a preview of the fights over voting that are likely to be a constant feature of the 2016 presidential race. It’s also providing a reminder of how Republican attacks on Clinton often can’t resist playing off her gender.
The feud comes as a court has rebuked the Kansas lawmaker for his controversial plan to create a separate registration system for state and federal elections.
The bitter back-and-forth started Monday evening, when Clinton tweeted out an Associated Press report about a plan by Kobach, Kansas’ Republican secretary of state, to remove more than 34,000 people from the voter rolls because they didn’t provide proof of citizenship when they registered. Kobach, a leading architect of restrictive voting rules, has called purging any such registrations after 90 days “a common-sense administrative rule.”
On Tuesday, Kobach fired back on his Facebook page. He said those who didn’t meet the 90-day deadline would merely have to fill out the form again — though he omitted the fact that they’d need to find out that they’d been removed and provide proof of citizenship to be restored to the rolls — something many eligible voters likely won’t do.
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“Hillary is getting her pantsuit in a twist over nothing,” Kobach concluded, adding the hashtag “#pantsuitinatwist.”
Kobach has led an effort to require proof of citizenship on voter registration applications, and during last November’s election, more than 40,000 voter registration applications went unprocessed by his office because they didn’t include such proof. But he has been blocked by the courts from adding the requirement to the federal voting form. As a result, he has created a two-tiered voting system, which prevents people who use the federal form from voting in state and local elections. On Wednesday, State Judge Franklin Theis rejected an attempt by Kobach to have an ACLU lawsuit against the scheme dismissed. In an order saying the case could proceed, Theis called Kobach’s two-tiered system “wholly without a basis of legislative authority.”
“This order makes clear the absurdity and unfairness of denying people the right to vote simply because of the form they used to register,” said Julie Ebenstein, a voting rights lawyer with the ACLU, in a statement.
Earlier this year, Kobach, a former Justice Department staffer during the Bush administration who also helped write Arizona’s strict immigration law, sought and received authority from the state legislature to prosecute voter fraud crimes directly, rather than referring them to state or local prosecutors.
In a speech in June, Clinton proposed that all eligible voters be automatically registered when they turn 18, unless they choose to opt out. And she denounced restrictive voting rules like Kobach’s as comprising “sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to another.”