ACLU, Kobach continue battle over voter rights

Posted at 2:22 PM, Mar 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-13 20:56:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A contentious federal trial pitting the ACLU against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will continue into a second week.

The trial, which focuses on a Kansas law requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship, was expected to wrap up by Tuesday. Instead, testimony and cross-examination of a Kobach expert witness continued through most of the day. 

Dr. Jesse Richman is an Old Dominion University professor who published articles about non-citizen involvement in national elections and in Kansas.

Kobach directly cited Richman's work in his opening statement, when he said there was evidence roughly 18,000 noncitizens were on the voter rolls in Kansas.

During cross-examination, the ACLU team honed in on the statistical methods employed by Richman for his report. Amid questioning Richman testified two of his data sets had sample sizes of less than 20 people. 

Richman also testified that, as part of his analysis of a suspended voters list, he flagged potentially foreign-born people by looking at their names. ACLU Attorney Dale Ho asked Richman if he would classify "Carlos Murguia" as a potential noncitizen. Richman said yes, and Ho informed him that Murguia is a U.S. District Court judge in KCK. 

Later on in the day, Richman clarified no conclusions were drawn from the coding, and it was only used to make sure the sample was representative. 

The ACLU called two witnesses to respond to Richman's testimony. First was Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Tufts University. From his analysis of the voter roll and Kobach's list of noncitizens who tried to register, Hersh concluded noncitizen registrations are "low-incidence idiosyncrasies." Hersh compared them to other administrative errors, like having 100 people born in the 1800's on the voter file.

Another ACLU witness, Dr. Stephen Ansolabahere of Harvard, testified that Richman's sample size of fewer than 20 people would have a "very large margin of error." He concluded Richman's report provided no evidence of a statistically-significant rate of noncitizen registration.

Testimony continued until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, at which point the court convened until Monday morning. The Kobach team has at least one more witness to call to the stands at that point.