Judge hears closing arguments in Kansas voting law trial

Posted at 11:48 AM, Mar 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-19 21:52:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On Monday, a federal judge heard closing arguments in a case pitting the ACLU against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is defending himself in the case.

At issue is a Kansas law requiring people to provide proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or passport, to register to vote.

"If we care about the integrity of our elections, we want to make sure every election is won fair and square, then we need to make sure noncitizens aren't registering and voting in our elections," Kobach told 41 Action News after the closing arguments.

On the other side, the ACLU argues the requirement places an undue burden on voters who may not have access to those documents. They claim 35,000 Kansans were prevented from registering to vote because of the law.

The trial, which began on March 6, was to give the secretary of state an opportunity to provide evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Kobach's legal team presented evidence 129 noncitizens either registered or attempted to register to vote in Kansas over the past 20 years. Citing research from his expert witness, Secretary Kobach estimated there could be as many as 18,000 noncitizens on the Kansas voter rolls. 

He has often used the term "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to the voter fraud that has been uncovered.

The ACLU's legal team pushed back on that notion.

"The more of an ice cube," ACLU Voting Rights Project Director and attorney Dale Ho said of Kobach's evidence in closing arguments. 

Throughout the trial, the ACLU honed in on the methods used by defense witnesses in their research. For example, Jesse Richman, a political scientist from Old Dominion University, had sample sizes between 20 and 50 people for his estimates of noncitizens on the rolls.

Before closing arguments on Monday, Judge Julie Robinson heard testimony from Kobach witness Pat McFerron, a pollster who completed a survey of 500 people living in Kansas. Through the survey, McFerron found 98 percent of them had a birth certificate or passport readily available.

However, McFerron's testimony may be excluded from the case. The Kobach legal team initially presented the pollster as a fact witness but later offered him as an expert witness instead. Judge Julie Robinson said the defendants violated the rules of civil procedure

"You're being schizophrenic," Robinson said to Sue Becker, an attorney on Kobach's team.

Although closing arguments concluded Monday evening, Kobach will be back at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday for a contempt of court hearing.