After almost no primaries in July, five states are holding elections today. While national races for U.S. House and Senate seats will garner much attention, a familiar face in the Republican race for Kansas attorney general should worry libertarians.
The state's current attorney general, Derek Schmidt, a Republican, is running for governor instead of seeking another term. Three Republicans are competing for the party's nomination—and, in a state that leans Republican by more than 20 points, likely the position. One of those candidates, Kris Kobach, is familiar to Kansas voters, who have rejected him at the ballot box twice in the past four years.
Kobach first made headlines in 2010, when he was elected secretary of state. Kobach previously helped draft anti-immigration ordinances in various cities and states, either by advising legislators or by writing the laws himself. In his run for office, he said voter fraud in Kansas was rampant and committed mostly by illegal immigrants. After four years in office, he had identified only six potential cases of voter fraud, resulting in just a single conviction.
The same year Kobach was elected, Arizona passed S.B. 1070, which required state and local authorities to inquire about someone's immigration status if there was "reasonable suspicion" they were undocumented. Kobach not only helped draft the bill, but also received more than $300 an hour from the sheriff's office in Maricopa County to train its deputies on immigration enforcement.
In 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the majority of the law. A ProPublica investigation determined that between 2005 and 2018, Kobach was paid more than $800,000 for drafting anti-immigration laws and ordinances, and then defending the laws in court when challenged. Most of the laws were overturned, sometimes at overwhelming expense to the towns which had passed them.
In 2018, a federal judge overturned a 2013 Kansas voting law. Kobach had insisted the law was necessary to combat voter fraud. Despite finding fewer than 40 cases of voter fraud, nearly 50,000 legal Kansans either had their voter registrations revoked or were prevented from registering in the first place. The judge even ordered Kobach to take six hours of remedial legal courses based on his poor court performance. (Kobach still brags about the law on his campaign website.)
In 2017, despite Kobach's poor batting average, he was appointed by President Donald Trump to head up the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, along with Vice President Mike Pence. The commission was formed largely to sate Trump's delusions of widespread voter fraud in an election he won. The commission was ultimately dissolved after less than a year.
While co-chairing, Kobach also advised Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add a citizenship question to the decennial U.S. Census. Kobach advised that the question was necessary to keep non-citizens from being counted for congressional apportionment, despite clear constitutional and Supreme Court precedent that apportionment includes all residents, not just citizens. If allowed, it would have led to massive undercounting and distorted congressional maps. In defending his suggestion, Kobach even admitted that apportionment was the issue, saying that maps in states like California were "inflated by counting illegal aliens."
Now, Kobach hopes to be the Republican Party's nominee for attorney general. Will Kansans send him packing for the third time in a row?