Kris Kobach fields questions from reporters in Birmingham, Ala. on Aug. 17, 2012.
Photo by Bob Miller for NBC News

Out of options, Kobach backs down, allows voters to be registered

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach waited until two minutes before the deadline, but he’s finally backed down in an ongoing fight over voting access. He still doesn’t want to talk about it, though. 

After shunning the media for days, at 4:58 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, Kobach directed local election administrators to start adding to the voter rolls more 18,000 Kansans whose applications to vote in federal elections had been in limbo. A court had given Kobach until Tuesday to comply with an order to register the voters. 

Neither Kobach — not normally known as press-shy — nor his staff has commented to reporters on the move. Numerous messages left by MSNBC throughout Tuesday went unreturned. But Jamie Shew, the elections director for Douglas County, confirmed the timing and content of the memo sent by the secretary of state’s office to county election administrators.

RELATED: Kris Kobach won’t say if he’s complying with order to register voters

On Friday, an appeals court upheld the court order, meaning Kobach was essentially out of options. A trial on the merits is scheduled for August.

The applications at issue were those that were submitted via motor vehicle offices and that didn’t include documentary proof of citizenship. Kobach argued that they should be rejected, citing a 2011 state law he pushed for that requires voter registration applicants to submit proof of citizenship. But after the ACLU filed a lawsuit, a court ruling last month found that applying the law to people who registered through motor vehicles offices likely violates the National Voter Registration Act, which aims to make registration through public agencies as easy as possible. Most of the applications under dispute came from Kansans younger than 30.

Kobach had argued that adding the voters would cause widespread confusion for local election administrators. But Shew said Douglas County was ready. 

“Our office had anticipated this ruling and had put a plan in place so we’re ready to implement this,” Shew said. “Our job is to make sure that that all eligible voters can cast a ballot.

Kobach, a Republican who has pushed for strict voting and immigration laws, is a staunch backer of Donald Trump.

Kansas, Kris Kobach and Voting Rights

Out of options, Kobach backs down, allows voters to be registered