A federal judge has held Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt for failing to fully register and notify eligible voters he’d blocked.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach failed to get standard postcards sent out to those would-be voters confirming their registrations and failed to update the County Election Manual used by local election officials processing voter applications, as she had ordered him to do in May 2016.
The would-be voters submitted their applications at DMV offices, without providing documentary proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or passport, as required by the state law Kobach argues Kansas needs to prevent voter fraud.
The ACLU, which represents Kansans challenging the state’s strict voter registration requirement, asked that Kobach be found in contempt. Judge Robinson ordered Kobach to pay “the reasonable attorney fees” expended by the ACLU.
“The term ‘register’ is not ambiguous,” Robinson wrote in her 25-page ruling, “nor should there have been any question that these voters were to be treated just like any other registered voter prior to the 2016 election, particularly after the state court decision requiring him to register them for state and local elections as well.”
Robinson’s contempt finding comes as she prepares to hand down a broader, highly anticipated decision on whether the requirement that Kansas voters prove their citizenship violates the federal “Motor Voter” law that makes it easy to register at the DMV.
The case, which was tried before her, concluded last month. The state law, spearheaded by Kobach, has blocked tens of thousands of voter registrations.
In her contempt finding, Robinson said that Kobach had “disingenuously suggested that he had insufficient time” after her May order to comply. But it was Kobach’s “confusing notices, and his patent failure to fully inform and monitor compliance” with her order that “caused confusion and misinformation,” she wrote.
In a statement, Kobach spokesman Moriah Day said his office will appeal Robinson's ruling. He said Kobach "has no additional comment at this time."
It’s the second time Kobach, who is running for governor, has been found in contempt.
Last year, a federal magistrate judge fined him $1,000 for misleading the court about the nature of documents he was photographed taking into a November 2016 meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump. The documents included proposed amendments to the National Voter Registration Act that would allow states to require voters provide documentary proof of citizenship.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:30 a.m. April 19 with additional information.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.