Unsealed Documents Show That Kris Kobach Is Dead Set on Suppressing the Right to Vote

For almost a year, Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas, has struggled to hide the truth about his efforts to lobby the Trump administration to make it much harder for Americans to vote. Part of that struggle ended today when a federal court ordered excerpts of Kris Kobach’s testimony disclosed along with other documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in our challenge to his restrictive voter registration regime.

The unsealed materials confirm what many have suspected: 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.

Join ACLU People Power’s Let People Vote campaign

As the de facto head of President Trump’s election commission, Kobach has positioned himself to lead an all-out assault on the right to vote.

Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from youtube.com.

Here are three big plays from Kobach’s voter suppression playbook.

Play 1: Disenfranchise new voters with severe registration restrictions

Before Kris Kobach took office as secretary of state, Kansans could register to vote the same way that people do in virtually every other state in the country: by submitting a sworn oath of citizenship under penalty of perjury. In 2013, Kobach implemented a law he had pushed through the Kansas Legislature two years earlier, requiring people to track down a citizenship document — such as a passport or birth certificate — or be barred from the ballot box. The new system proved disastrous for ordinary voters.

Large numbers of citizens — disproportionately minorities — don’t have a passport or birth certificate on hand and don’t have the money to obtain replacement documents. By December 2015, more than 35,000 Kansans had been disenfranchised — approximately 14 percent of all registration applications since the requirement went into effect. The National Voter Registration Act — popularly known as the Motor-Voter law — prohibits unduly harsh registration rules and requires that states make voter registration easy and straightforward.

Kobach’s severe documentation requirements violated the NVRA so we sued. In October 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit blocked the requirement for people registering at DMVs. The opinion by a George W. Bush-appointed judge found that Kobach’s law had caused a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.” The court noted that before a state could impose such sweeping restrictions, there would need to be proof that significant numbers of noncitizens were actually registering to vote. But Kobach had no evidence of any real problem. He could only offer “pure speculation” that hordes of invisible immigrants were hiding out in voting booths.

Play 2: If the law doesn’t let you suppress the vote, pull some strings to get rid of the law

Without evidence or legal arguments in his favor, Kobach’s next move was to try to eviscerate the NVRA itself. As Kobach knew, and the ACLU had made clear in court, the NVRA would need to be completely rewritten for a state official like Kobach to have the authority to impose such severe restrictions on the right to vote:

Kobach Document Screenshot

So what did Kobach do after losing in court? As the unsealed documents show, he secretly prepared a draft amendment that would rewrite the NVRA in exactly this manner.

Kobach Document Screenshot 2

No evidence of noncitizen voter fraud? No problem.

Kobach’s proposed amendment would grant him and officials across the country the power to impose any voter registration restriction they wanted regardless of the evidence — or lack thereof. Then, the very day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Kobach started peddling his amendment, sending an email to Gene Hamilton, a member of the Trump transition team:

Kobach Document Screenshot 3

Less than two weeks later, on November 20, 2016, Kobach was photographed walking into a meeting with Trump, carrying his agenda for the “First 365 days” of the incoming administration. A bullet point in the plan? Amend the NVRA.

Kobach Document Screenshot 4

We now know that the meeting was Kobach’s job interview with Donald Trump and his senior advisors: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, and Reince Priebus. Kobach gave each of them a copy of his playbook, pitching them the idea that noncitizens were potentially swinging the results of elections.

Shortly after the meeting with Kobach, Trump tweeted that he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of people who supposedly voted illegally.

Trump Electoral College Tweet

Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway later confirmed that Kobach was the source of Trump’s tweet.

On May 20, 2017, Trump selected Kobach as the vice-chair and de facto leader of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. Kobach had the commission packed with many of his own longtime confederates and is now poised to execute the scheme outlined in his unsealed documents.

Play 3: Cover your tracks

When the ACLU demanded that he produce his draft NVRA amendments in the Kansas litigation, Kobach did the natural thing a vote suppressor caught red-handed would do: He lied.

Kobach told the ACLU and a federal magistrate that “no such documents exist” in an attempt to keep his lobbying efforts under wraps:

Kobach Document Screenshot 6

After Kobach was ordered to produce his papers for review, the magistrate fined him for making “patently misleading representations to the court about the documents.” When Kobach appealed that decision, the presiding judge agreed that Kobach should be sanctioned because of a “pattern” of misrepresentation “that call[s] his credibility into question.”

Kobach’s lobbying to gut the NVRA was always meant to occur behind closed doors. So he has been struggling for months to keep these documents out of public view, while secretly asking his ally, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), to introduce his proposed NVRA amendment to Congress in the future.

Why is Kobach trying so hard to hide what he’s been up to? Because the unsealed documents reveal that his true aim and that of the election commission is suppressing the right to vote.
When the 10th Circuit blocked Kobach’s law a year ago, the court found that a state has to prove that noncitizen registration fraud is actually a significant problem before it can demand a passport or birth certificate from voters. Since then, Kobach has been maneuvering behind the scenes to make sure he can impose whatever restrictions he wants without any proof. Why? Because he knows his claims about noncitizens voting are a scam.

Kobach realizes that his law has been disenfranchising tens of thousands of eligible citizens — that is the whole point. And now, he’s poised to do the same nationwide.

Vice President Pence stated that the president’s election commission would begin with “no preconceived notions or preordained results.” That was wrong. As Kobach’s own testimony and documents show, the fix has been in from the start.

Want to expand access to the ballot and make our democracy more representative? Get involved. Participate in a “Let People Vote” voting rights action near you. Read more about the Let People Vote campaign here; sign up for updates here

View comments (183)
Read the Terms of Use


no doubt.


Lying you mean like Hillary and Russian ties ?


I thought voter suppression is a crime? Why does he only get a fine? should he be prosecuted?


He was fined for lying about not having the documents that the court asked for. If he were being tried for voter suppression this would be a much bigger deal.


Why isn't there a charge against Kobach for perjury?

He is providing information to and before the court that should recognize statements, testimony, and declarations which should be of sworn evidentiary value. Committing perjury in any judges present is a significant disregard for the Justice and Respect of Honor of the Robe of any Presiding Judge.

As an officer of the court in presenting sworn documents Kobach should be held accountable in a more severe manner than dismissing cases for speculation or presenting “patently misleading representations to the court about the documents.” An official record depicting the injustices should forever be available so that Kobach's reputation and professional standing is present for future endeavors he may desire.

As it stands he will be recognized by those making up his ilk as a reputable soldier for whatever cause discrimination takes hold. Perhaps our expectation is too high concerning whether there should be a higher expectation for not honoring the Judiciary.


We don't know for sure whether the public would be notified if the court took further action against Kobach. He has options other than charging him with perjury. He could file charges with the bar for violating the ethical rules requiring honest conduct. These proceedings are almost always confidential, at least until a decision is made and published. But he could be disbarred and censured.

The Golden Rule

"He who has the gold, makes the rules" < This is why he gets a fine instead of a perjury charge.


loganbacon - your point is well taken. I am more acquainted with civil and criminal proceedings than tort or similar legislative, judicial (procedural) hearings. I expect the oath to have the respect all the same.

It is interesting you speak of the private meetings for such offenses. I view in concerns in other areas of law that leads to another question; which is necessary to ask for many of the players in the matters of any official facing scrutiny. And that is how to prevent a witness(es) in a publicly televised or radio broadcast listening to a live hearing from setting their testimony to favor the interests most favorable to them?

"The Rule" is an order for such issues, however in today's digital world information is flowing so quickly blurring lines with witnesses, suspects and hostile parties giving testimony is unlike any situation ever before.


Speaking of charges when is Obama and Holder gonna be held accountable for FAST & FURIOUS and Hillary for collusion with Russians Chinese and let's not forget Benghazi and the hundreds of people she ordered assassinated.


In view of claims that legitimate votes were never counted in swing states (in substantial numbers), is there any way to pursue those responsible for voter suppression? These votes were prevented from counting in areas where Clinton would have clearly prevailed. Not only did Trump lose the popular vote, now there is concern that he really did not win the Electoral College vote.


Stay Informed