The day after last year’s presidential election, Kris Kobach told Donald Trump’s transition team he was already working on draft federal legislation allowing states to make it harder to register to vote.
The news will add to fears that the White House’s controversial voting commission, of which Kobach (pictured) is the vice chair and driving force, is aimed from the outset at restricting access to the franchise.
“We will… be putting together information on legislation drafts for submission to Congress early in the administration,” Kobach wrote in a November 9 email to Trump aide Gene Hamilton, in response to Hamilton’s request for “immigration policy action items.”
Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State, added:
I have some already started regarding amendments to the NVRA to make clear that proof of citizenship requirements are permitted (based on my ongoing litigation with the ACLU over this).
The email exchange was made public Friday as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Kobach. The exchange was first reported by The Huffington Post.
A spokeswoman for Kobach didn’t immediately respond to The Daily Democracy’s request for comment. But a lawyer for Kobach wrote in an email to the ACLU this month, which was also part of the court filing, that Kobach never ended up sending any draft amendment to the NVRA.
At issue in the lawsuit is a 2011 Kansas law, championed and enforced by Kobach, requiring documentary proof of citizenship from voter registrants. The ACLU has argued that the law violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, often known as Motor Voter, which aims to make registration as easy as possible. Federal courts have mostly sided with the ACLU, punching major holes in the Kansas law, though the case is ongoing.
During the transition, Kobach, known for his hard-line stances on voting and immigration, was in contention for a top post with the Trump administration. In late November, he was photographed entering a meeting with Trump while holding documents that referred to the NVRA. That sparked fears that he intended to push federal legislation weakening the law and giving states freer rein to restrict voter registration.
Those fears grew last month when a U.S. judge in the ACLU case wrote in an order that documents the ACLU was seeking from Kobach, which he was looking to keep secret, related to “proposals by defendant to amend the NVRA’s eligibility-assessment provisions.”
The emails made public Friday offer further evidence of Kobach’s plans.
As The Daily Democracy has noted, any recommendation by the White House voting commission that the NVRA be amended in the way that Kobach is seeking could raise conflict of interest issues for him, since a weakened NVRA would bolster Kobach’s position in his ongoing legal battle with the ACLU, in which he’s a named defendant.
The voting commission holds its first in-person meeting Wednesday in Washington. Voting rights activists are planning to protest outside.