Nativism Watch

Former Kobach appointee aids voter suppression efforts in 3 states

Imagine2050 Staff • Feb 17, 2016
Kris Kobach
Kris Kobach

UPDATED 2/25/2016

The Temporary Restraining Order requested by voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, in order  to reverse Newby’s decision to modify federal voter registration forms to accommodate three states who require proof of citizenship in order to vote was denied.

Kris Kobach and other attorneys with the Immigration Reform Law Institute appeared in the D.C. federal court to intervene in the case voting rights groups brought against Brian Newby of the Election Assistance Commission (mentioned below).

A full hearing on the case is scheduled for March 9.

ORIGINAL POST (from 2/17/2016)

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and champion of voter suppression measures, “just got the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to do what he wants,” according to the editorial board at The Wichita Eagle, and we don’t disagree.

After years of trying, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach just got the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to do what he wants. All it took was an edict from the EAC’s new executive director, Brian Newby – who just happens to be the former Kobach-backed elections commissioner of Johnson County.

The Wichita Eagle Editorial Board

The Commission’s new executive director, Brian Newby, was a former elections commissioner in Kansas that Kobach enthusiastically supported.

For years, Kobach has used his position of power to do everything he can to suppress voter turnout and ballot access in the Sunflower State by requiring voters to present proof of citizenship when registering. However, this effort was dealt a decisive blow last month when a district court judge ruled Kobach had no authority to “encumber the voting process” by instituting a discriminatory two-tier voting scheme.

Kobach created the two-tier system that affected nearly 20,000 Kansas voters in 2013 as a legal workaround to federal voter registration requirements. Federal law does not compel voters to provide proof of citizenship to register. Kobach made it so those who cannot provide proof of citizenship are ineligible to vote in state elections and can therefore only vote for federal candidate. The number of partially disenfranchised voters reached nearly 20,000 before the 2014 election. He later pushed to make the system even less accessible by calling for a rule to purge voter rolls of the names of voters who could not produce proof of citizenship after 90 days.

Now, however, the federal Election Assistance Commission intends to accommodate the proof of citizenship requirement Kansas, and other states such as Alabama and Georgia, have. The change comes as the Commission’s head, Brian Newby, made an apparently unilateral decision to accommodate the states’ suppression efforts.

Newby was previously an elections commissioner in Johnson County, Kansas, for more than a decade.

Newby was re-appointed elections commissioner in Kansas by Kobach in 2014. He joined the federal Commission last November.

In a Feb. 2 statement, Election Assistance Commission Vice-Chair Thomas Hicks stated Newby’s action “constitutes a change of policy, which can only be made following official adoption by at least three Commissioners.” Accordingly, a collection of 36 “good-government, disability rights, civil rights, and voting rights groups” have written to Newby requesting he reverse his decision. In their letter, the groups rightfully note “that the National Voter Registration Act, through which this federal form was created, aims to increase the number of eligible voters and enhance their participation in our elections.” (emphasis original)

The League of Women Voters of the United States and other groups have also filed a lawsuit against Newby and theElection Assistance Commission alleging Newby’s “unlawful actions will cause substantial, immediate and irreparable harm” to voters.

As that legal challenge works its way through the courts, however, it appears Kobach has been given the green light from a friend in a high place to disenfranchise thousands of potential voters in his home state.

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