KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The story Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach tells about noncitizens stealing elections isn’t real, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday, but thousands of disenfranchised Kansans are.
As seven days of testimony concluded in the federal trial over the Kansas voter registration law, the ACLU’s Dale Ho alluded to Kobach’s frequently spoken claim that the few known examples of voter fraud are just the tip of the iceberg. Ho worked to dismantle Kobach’s estimate of 18,000 illegal voters in the state by pointing to flaws with the estimate’s underlying survey of just 37 people.
“The iceberg, on close inspection, your honor, is more of an ice cube,” Ho said in closing arguments before U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson.
Testimony resumed Monday morning following a six-day break. The final witness for Kobach, GOP pollster Pat McFerron, said his survey of 500 Kansas adults found just one person who couldn’t produce a proof-of-citizenship document. McFerron also admitted bias and other concerns with his survey and discussed his work as a political consultant who advised former Gov. Sam Brownback to connect Democrat Paul Davis to the Carr brothers in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
In closing arguments, Kobach defended the state’s law by asserting no one has been prevented from voting — they just haven’t completed the process. His office is available to help the rare Kansans who don’t have documents, Kobach said.
He told Robinson the evidence supports the two-part test presented to him for this trial, in which he needed to prove there the existence of a significant number of illegal voters and that the voter registration law is needed to address the problem. Even if the lowest estimate were correct, 1,000 illegal voters is too many, he said, and proposed alternatives can’t uncover all of the fraud.
Additionally, the Kansas Legislature decided the integrity of elections outweighs the burden of showing documents, Kobach said, and lawmakers passed the 2011 law by a wide, bipartisan margin.
“The court should respect the Legislature’s judgment,” he said.
Kobach returns to court Tuesday morning to face a contempt hearing over an ACLU claim that he defied Robinson’s orders to help suspended voters register while the case is being resolved.
Also taking part in closing arguments was Mark Johnson, the attorney for University of Kansas student Parker Bednasek, who protested the law by refusing to show his readily available birth certificate.
Johnson described McFerron as a political agent whose hastily constructed study for this trial was conducted to further his lucrative relationship with Republican candidates in Kansas. Kobach paid McFerron, whose firm primarily serves Republican political candidates, $9,000 for his survey.
Responding to questions from Johnson, McFerron revealed Brownback paid him $98,000 for consultant work in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Four years earlier, Brownback paid him $68,000. In 2012, McFerron said, he worked at the direction of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to take down incumbent moderate Republicans in primary elections for seats in the Legislature.
With Brownback locked in a tight re-election race, McFerron’s polling in 2014 revealed five out of six people opposed Davis if they were told he had a close relationship with Kansas Supreme Court justices. Reginald and Jonathan Carr, who were convicted in the 2000 slayings of five people in Wichita, were on death row, and the state’s high court had questioned the merits of the state’s death penalty law.
UCLA professor Matt Barreto, a statistician and survey analyst who, like Kobach, graduated from Washburn Rural High School, presented testimony about flaws in McFerron’s methodology for the Kobach survey, which included biased language, didn’t adhere to academic standards and wasn’t representative of the Kansas population.
Quoting French author Voltaire, Johnson said Kobach was denying thousands the right to vote by seeking unattainable perfection.
“The perfect is the enemy of the good,” Johnson said.