Judge Schools Kris Kobach. Literally, Like Rodney Dangerfield And Shit
A federal court has thrown out Kansas's awful voter registration law, finding that it violated federal law by imposing unnecessary limits on the rights of people to register to vote. US District Judge Julie Robinson said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had failed to prove the state has any significant problem with non-citizen voting, and that there was simply no reason for the state to require people to show documents to prove they're citizens in order to register to vote. Further, because Kobach had so frequently shit the bed during the March trial, Robinson ordered him to take six hours of continuing legal education on trial procedure so he won't fill any more judges' courtrooms with poop ever again. (He will still fill more judges' courtrooms with poop.)
Judge Robinson's ruling in favor of the ACLU's challenge to the Kansas law is a pretty entertaining read, as judicial rulings go. We liked the part where she trashed several of the expert witnesses Kobach presented at trial -- excluding one altogether, finding another to be unqualified beyond a very limited scope, and pointing out severe flaws in the methodology of another expert's supposed estimates of voter fraud in Kansas.
Kobach had claimed that the very few documented examples of voter fraud indicated there must be oodles of noncitizen voters out there. Robinson instead held that the very small numbers of noncitizens who registered to vote -- 39 completed registrations in the 14 years prior to the passage of the voter registration law, out of which only 11 actual votes were cast -- were almost certainly due to "administrative error, confusion, or mistake." Kobach's claim that strict measures were needed to fight a massive wave of fraud were simply not supported by the crappy statistics presented by one of his top "experts," as the Topeka Capital-Journal explains:
Jesse Richman, who teaches political science at Old Dominion University, based his conclusions on surveys with small sample sizes and didn't weight the responses for demographics. In one example, he pointed to four out of 14 survey responses to conclude that 28.5 percent of the estimated 114,000 noncitizens in Kansas registered to vote. In doing so, he failed to verify whether the people who responded were actually noncitizens.
In another example, he surveyed Kansans with temporary driver's licenses. Six of the 36 who responded said they attempted to register to vote. When an ACLU witness checked the state's database, however, none of them had actually tried to register.
Nice to see some judicial notice of just what shoddy research is pushed by advocates of voter suppression. Richman's conclusions simply couldn't be supported by evidence, Robinson wrote:
Defendant insists that these numbers are just "the tip of the iceberg." This trial was his opportunity to produce credible evidence of that iceberg, but he failed to do so. The Court will not rely on extrapolated numbers from tiny sample sizes and otherwise flawed data. Dr. Richman's estimates were not only individually flawed and wildly varied, but his refusal to opine as to the best method of estimating the iceberg renders them all suspect. [...]
While the Court acknowledges that Defendant has limited tools at his disposal to quantify the statewide numbers of noncitizen registrations, the Court does not assume as Defendant does that this means there must be additional, substantial cases of noncitizen registration. Instead, the Court draws the more obvious conclusion that there is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error.
Robinson found that Kansas's law violated both the National Voter Registration Act (aka the "Motor Voter" law) and infringed on Kansans' 14th Amendment rights to due process. In addition to overturning the law, she laid out very specific actions she wanted Kobach to take, including updating all election materials, in print and on state websites, restoring to voter rolls anyone whose registration had been suspended, and making it absolutely clear to county elections officials that they are not to demand proof of citizenship from applicants (the application already requires voters to affirm they're citizens and states they can be criminally charged if they vote illegally).
And because Robinson had already found Kobach in contempt of one of her earlier orders in the case, she preceded her orders with a warning:
Defendant's well-documented history of avoiding this Court's Orders, and providing confusing notices and information on the State's websites in conjunction with this Court's rulings, warrant specific compliance measures with this injunction as spelled out below.
That's law talk for "Do Not Trifle With Me, Dickweed."
Robinson also detailed Kobach's many, many procedural fuckups in the course of the trial, especially his frequent attempts to bring in new evidence he hadn't provided to the plaintiffs during pre-trial discovery, which of course is just plain not allowed. There's a lot of "disingenuous" and "misleading" in the ruling, and Robinson's frustration with Kobach's bad lawyering is obvious. So he has to take some additional law classes in order to keep his law-talking license, neener-neener.
We like reading a well-written judicial opinion. We also learned that the real name for Kansas's voter registration database is the "Election Voter Information System," or ELVIS. That system itself remains in operation; only the onerousvoter registration law has left the building.
Danedri Herbert, a spokesperson for Kobach, read a statement expressing outrage that anyone could have a problem with making voters jump through arbitrary hoops designed to make voting harder:
"Robinson is the first judge in the country to come to the extreme conclusion that requiring a voter to prove his citizenship is unconstitutional," Herbert said. "Her conclusion is incorrect, and it is inconsistent with precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court."
Kobach, who's running for governor, will of course appeal, and despite having been shown to be an idiot, will no doubt make campaign ads decrying the mean judge who wants millions of illegal immigrants -- who definitely exist in the brains of Breitbart readers -- to be able to vote for Democrats. He can probably cite this fine tweet from his "president" this morning:
Judge Robinson, by the way, was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.