Editorial: Justified suspicion of Kobach

It will be difficult for the voter fraud commission to earn Americans’ trust

The voter fraud commission still has a serious trust problem, and this is largely due to the record of its vice chairman: Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (File photograph/The Capital-Journal)

On Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Elizabeth Shapiro apologized to a federal judge on behalf of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Before the commission’s first meeting on July 19, executive director Andrew Kossack promised that the group would release all of its records. However, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly pointed out that the documents from that meeting weren’t made public in advance. As such, she told Shapiro that the commission “didn’t live up to the representations” it had made.

 

Shapiro argued that the panel didn’t intend to hide the documents: “It was truly an honest misunderstanding on the part of the commission … I wanted to convey our apologies and our sincere regret for that.” To ensure that the commission will be more transparent in the future, Shapiro informed members that they need to submit all relevant materials before meetings take place to give the public a chance to look at them. Kollar-Kotelly praised this decision: “It looks like it’s a good first step.”

Shapiro was probably telling the truth when she said the commission acted “entirely in good faith.” She noted that it had a “chaotic start” and explained that there was “a little bit of disorganization in terms of how the meeting would happen.” These are plausible explanations for the failure to release the documents, and it’s likely that Wednesday’s hearing will lead to greater transparency. However, the voter fraud commission still has a serious trust problem, and this is largely due to the record of its vice chairman: Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Remember when U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara fined Kobach for making “patently misleading representations to the court” over the contents of a document he was photographed carrying to a meeting with Trump last year? ACLU lawyers contended that the document was germane to their lawsuit over proof-of-citizenship laws in Kansas, but Kobach argued that it didn’t contain “relevant information.” In April, O’Hara sided with the ACLU, explaining that the “defendant’s deceptive conduct and lack of candor warrant the imposition of sanctions.”

O’Hara also pointed out that Kobach’s behavior undermined his trustworthiness: “When any lawyer takes an unsupportable position in a simple matter such as this, it hurts his or her credibility when the court considers arguments on much more complex and nuanced matters.” When U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson upheld O’Hara’s ruling, she cited Kobach’s “pattern” of making false claims and concluded that the fine was “necessary to deter defense counsel in this case from misleading the Court about the facts and record in the future.” These are disturbing accusations against the man who’s supposed protect the integrity of our elections.

Then again, Americans don’t need federal judges to tell them about Kobach’s record of dishonesty – it’s obvious to anyone who picks up a newspaper.

When President Trump made his infamous remark about the “millions” of people who voted illegally in 2016, he was widely condemned on both sides of the aisle. It was impossible to interpret the comment as anything other than an absurd and self-serving demonstration of the president’s insecurity (he received almost 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton). But Kobach eagerly offered his fawning support: “I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton at this point.”

It will take a long time for this commission to earn the benefit of the doubt.

Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.

 

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