Kris Kobach’s plan to change federal voting law to make voter registration harder has advanced further than previously known.
In a newly released deposition, Kobach acknowleded he’s spoken to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa, pictured), an extreme immigration hardliner, about introducing legislation to let states require that people registering to vote show documentary proof of citizenship, should Kobach lose an ongoing lawsuit on the issue. Kobach, who serves both as Kansas’s secretary of state and as the vice chair and de facto director of the White House’s voting commission, also said he’d circulated a proposal on the issue to Donald Trump and his top advisers at a meeting soon after last year’s presidential election.
“The unsealed materials confirm what many have suspected,” Orion Danjuma, a lawyer with the ACLU, wrote online. “Kobach has a ready-made plan to gut core voting rights protections enshrined in federal law. And he has been covertly lobbying Trump’s team and other officials from day one to sell them the falsehood that noncitizens are swinging elections.”
King’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But it told the AP that King “believes it is an important policy to ensure that only citizens vote, and he hopes to follow up on this in the future.”
The newly unsealed deposition, conducted August 3, was part of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU which challenges a controversial Kansas law championed by Kobach. The law requires people registering to vote to show documentary proof of citizenship, a requirement that has kept tens of thousands of Kansas registration applications on hold in recent years, since many people can’t easily access such proof. Several courts have ruled that the law violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), though the case is ongoing.
Kobach also said in the deposition that he’d given copies of a document titled “Draft Amendments to National Voter Registration Act to Promote Proof-of-Citizenship Requirements” to everyone who attended a November 2016 meeting with the Trump transition team, a group that included Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller.
Nonetheless, Kobach was at pains during the deposition to minimize the significance of the proposal. “It doesn’t refer to anything specific,” he said. “If there were a future bill to bring the NVRA up to date with the internet age, this is something that the administration can consider.”
In fact, we already know that Kobach has been working aggressively to make that legislation happen. In July, the court released an email he wrote written to a Trump transition aide the day after the election. Kobach wrote that he had already started putting together “information on legislation drafts for submission to Congress” on the subject of amending the NVRA to allow for proof-of-citizenship laws.
King is a logical choice to be Kobach’s partner in the effort. In addition to his hardline immigration record, King appears to have qualms about letting everyone vote.
“[T]here was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote,” he recalled at a 2011 congressional hearing. “The reason for that was, because they wanted the people who voted — that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending — to have some skin in the game.”
“Now we have data out there that shows that 47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes,” King went on. “But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.”