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Judge holds Kansas' Kobach in contempt in voting rights case

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is trying to defend an important voter-suppression tactic. It's really not going well.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in his Topeka, Kan., office May 12, 2016. (Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters)
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in his Topeka, Kan., office May 12, 2016.

It's been several years since Kansas Republicans first imposed new voting restrictions on state residents, including requirements that Kansans show proof of citizenship when registering. The ACLU is challenging the measure in federal court, while Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) defends them.

That is, of course, the same Kobach who's championed voter-suppression techniques at the national level, and helped lead Donald Trump's ridiculous voting commission, which recently ended in failure.

It's safe to say this latest endeavor isn't going especially well, either. A federal judge yesterday held Kobach in contempt of court, and the Washington Post did a nice job explaining why.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued a preliminary injunction in 2016 blocking the [Kansas law related to voter registrations] and asked that the registrations of some 18,000 people whose materials had been held be notified with a postcard confirming their registration and polling place, as other voters are in Kansas.But the ACLU recently charged that many voters had failed to receive the postcard.... Robinson sided with the ACLU's January motion to hold Kobach, Kansas's secretary of state, in contempt for the failures, as the court had ordered him previously to comply.In her ruling, in which she said twice that Kobach acted "disingenuously," Robinson wrote that she found "clear and convincing evidence" that he had disobeyed the preliminary injunction.

NBC News' report on this added that this wasn't the first time: "Kobach was held in contempt of court last year, too, for misleading the court about documents he was photographed bringing into a meeting with the president."

Slate's Mark Joseph Stern recently pulled together a list of "all the ways Kris Kobach has already lied to the court that's overseeing his Kansas voter fraud trial," and it wasn't a short list.

I'm not an attorney, but I get the sense federal judges aren't pleased when lawyers lie to them -- especially in a voting-rights case in which one of the lawyers is also the state's chief elections official.

As for the case on the merits, it doesn't look like Kobach is doing a good job on this front, either. The New York Times recently published this gem:

Of course, restrictive voting laws like these have never been about protecting electoral integrity. They're about keeping certain people away from the ballot box, often based on who they are — or are assumed to be. [In March], one of Mr. Kobach's witnesses, a political scientist, Jesse Richman, testified that up to 18,000 noncitizens have registered or tried to register in Kansas. When the A.C.L.U.'s lawyer asked him about his methods for analyzing the state's list of suspended voters, Mr. Richman said that, among other things, he flagged foreign-sounding names.What about a name like "Carlos Murguia," the lawyer asked. Would he flag that one? Yes, Mr. Richman said. He was then informed that Carlos Murguia is a federal district judge who sits in the courthouse where the trial is being held.

Kobach, it's worth noting, is also a Republican candidate for governor this year. Though there are several candidates in the GOP field, Kobach is generally seen as a top contender for his party's nomination.

And with an independent candidate in the mix, who'll likely split the mainstream vote, it means there's a decent chance that a national pioneer in voter suppression -- who's now been held in contempt of court twice -- will be Kansas' next governor.