Attorneys seek nearly $3.3M in Kansas voting rights suit

Polling locations open to Kansas City, Missouri voters.
Posted at 1:41 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 14:41:10-05

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas could be on the hook for nearly $3.3 million in attorney fees and expenses after losing a lawsuit that challenged a state law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote.

The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led former President Donald Trump's now-defunct voter fraud commission. Kobach was a leading source for Trump's unsubstantiated claim that millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally may have voted in the 2016 election.

The latest filing in the case asked the U.S. Court for the District of Kansas to award the plaintiffs' attorneys fees of more than $2.9 million and non-taxable expenses of nearly $383,000 in litigation that spanned almost five years.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in the court filing late Thursday that the case was necessary to remedy a "mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right" and an erosion of confidence in the electoral system caused by the Kansas law.

A total of 31,089 Kansans, or about 12% of voter registration applicants, were prevented from registering to vote during the three years the law was in effect. The state's own expert estimated that almost all of those were U.S. citizens who were eligible to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected an appeal from Kansas that sought to revive the law after a federal appeals court affirmed a trial court ruling that declared it unconstitutional.

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who supported the law when he was in the state Legislature, pursued the Supreme Court appeal over the objection of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.

Schwab's office declined to immediately comment and Kobach has not responded to a message left on his cellphone.

The ACLU filing noted that plaintiffs' attorneys had spent 9,678 hours on the case, not counting the time spent on a contempt motion against Kobach that was subject to a separate fee petition. The filing said the number of hours was exacerbated by Kobach's "recalcitrance" in litigating the case.

Kobach represented himself in proceedings at the district court level and on appeal of the preliminary injunction. The lawyers emphasized that Kobach's conduct unnecessarily multiplied proceedings throughout the litigation. They cited his unprofessional conduct that triggered contempt proceedings on two occasions and discovery sanctions as well as repeated rule violations throughout the trial that also resulted in sanctions.

Kansas had been the only state to require people to show a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport when applying to register to vote. The issue is distinct from state laws that call for people to produce driver licenses or other photo IDs to cast a vote in person.