Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says a federal judge’s contempt of court finding against his office is “ridiculous” and blames county-level operations for their failure to follow instructions.
But in breaking his silence on the topic, Kobach fails to mention his own shortcomings.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued her contempt ruling last week, reprimanding Kobach for neglecting her orders following a temporary injunction that blocked enforcement of the state’s voter registration requirements. His office will have to pay attorney fees for the American Civil Liberties Union and possibly other remedies.
Robinson’s ruling calls attention to Kobach’s broken promise to send postcards letting people know they could participate in elections even if they didn’t provide proof of citizenship documents when they registered.
Kobach, who has declined to answer questions on the contempt finding from news media, dismissed personal responsibility in comments to Breitbart. He failed to say his office never provided written instructions notifying counties of the need to send postcards or that his office argued in the weeks before last month’s hearing that the postcards weren’t necessary.
″(Robinson) wanted to make sure that all those voters got a notice telling them where there polling place is, the standard postcard that’s sent out in Kansas,” Kobach said. “And we instructed the counties to do so, but some of the counties didn’t get it done in time in the short period before the election.
“And so the judge is holding my office in contempt for the failure of counties to follow the instructions that we gave them. It’s just ridiculous.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Fact Meter finds this statement to be false. Testimony from Kobach’s elections director, Bryan Caskey, makes it clear the office didn’t attempt to comply with the postcards order until after the contempt hearing.
Caskey admitted he couldn’t remember ever having a conversation with Kobach about postcards and that he didn’t even know they were part of the judge’s order. After reviewing his calendar inspired Caskey to remember giving verbal instruction to counties during a conference call in October 2016, but Robinson said his sudden recollection “strains credulity.”
When standing before the judge, Kobach offered a different explanation than the one given to Breitbart.
“Defendant himself admitted at the March 20 hearing that he understood that individuals covered by the preliminary injunction order should be treated no different from all other registered voters,” Robinson said. “And he indicated he understood the court’s expectations when he represented to the court that he personally directed his staff to ensure that the postcards would be sent, and that he would continue to notify the counties of what their responsibilities are and what the rules are.”
In the days leading up to the contempt hearing, Caskey for the first time reached out to counties to ask if they had sent postcards. He checked with four of the largest counties, and three had failed to do so.
Caskey has taken steps in the past month to ensure counties are sending postcards in advance of August primaries. His swift action suggests there was enough time between a September 2016 court hearing, when Kobach assured Robinson that postcards would be sent, and November 2016 elections.
“Kobach’s statement is plainly wrong in every respect,” said ACLU of Kansas executive director Micah Kubic. “It shows a cavalier disregard for the actual text of Judge Robinson’s order, and a total, willful misstatement of the court record. Judge Robinson is holding Kobach in contempt because he did not follow the orders she gave him, and because he repeatedly gave her assurances about what we he was doing that were untrue.”
In his comments to Breitbart, Kobach said it was surprising that Robinson agreed to a temporary injunction. But in a deposition shown during last month’s trial, Kobach said he drafted possible changes to federal law in preparation for the “eventuality” of losing the case.
After Robinson blocked enforcement of the law, people who applied through DMVs continued to be notified they would not be able to vote without proving their citizenship. The ACLU complained, and postcards were supposed to be part of the remedy.
During his contempt hearing, Robinson scolded Kobach for having “to police this over and over again.”
“But of course,” Kobach told Breitbart, “you read the left-wing editorials and papers and, ‘Oh my goodness! He’s held in contempt. He must have done something really terrible.’ When really all it is, is some counties that didn’t send out both postcards, they only sent out one postcard.”