In a 100-plus-page decision knocking down Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship voter registration law, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson spent some two-dozen pages dismantling the testimonies offered by the so-called experts called by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to defend the law.
She said that “misleading evidence” and “preconceived beliefs about this issue” were the basis of the testimony given by one member of President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission, which Kobach once led. The author of a report Trump allies once touted as evidence of mass voter fraud offered estimates of Kansas non-citizen registration that were “individually flawed and wildly varied,” Robinson said. Additionally, the top researcher at an anti-immigration think tank who argued that the Kobach’s law did not affect voter turnout was not qualified to make such a conclusion, Robinson ruled, excluding large parts of his testimony.
Kobach — as part of a test an appeals court said the district judge should use to evaluate his voter law — needed to prove that voter fraud, and specifically non-citizen registration, was a “substantial” problem in Kansas. The experts he called appeared to be the best options he had to back that claim — and they fell well short of convincing the judge.
“The Court will not rely on extrapolated numbers from tiny sample sizes and otherwise flawed data,” she said.
Hans von Spakovsky
A Heritage Foundation scholar and an alum of George W. Bush’s Justice Department, Hans von Spakovsky was brought in to testify that the proof-of citizenship requirement was necessary in Kansas. Robinson said Monday that she gave his testimony little weight because it was “premised on several misleading and unsupported examples of non-citizen voter registration, mostly outside the State of Kansas.”
“His myriad misleading statements, coupled with his publicly stated preordained opinions about this subject matter, convinces the Court that Mr. von Spakovsky testified as an advocate and not as an objective expert witness,” she wrote.
She pointed out that von Spakovsky, during the proceedings, “could not identify any expert on the subject of non-citizen voter registration.”
He did nothing to verify a spreadsheet provided by a Kansas election official showing only 30 instances of non-citizen registration or attempted registration in a county in Kansas, Robinson said, that he used to back up his allegations.
“He later admitted during cross-examination that he had no personal knowledge as to whether or not any of these individuals had in fact falsely asserted U.S. citizenship when they became registered to vote and that he did not examine the facts of these individual cases,” the judge said.
She also picked apart other claims von Spakovsky made about voter fraud based on reports outside of Kansas, and knocked him for failing to correct or supplement his expert report when obvious flaws were pointed out to him during the proceedings.
“The record is replete with further evidence of Mr. von Spakovsky’s bias,” she said.
Old Dominion University associate professor Jesse Richman was offered by Kobach to provided a series of analyses alleging that tens of thousands of non-citizens were registered to vote in Kansas. He previously authored a report alleging that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008, potentially swinging an entire state to President Obama, which spokespeople for President Trump later cited to back up his false claims of millions of illegal voters.
Robinson noted Richman’s methodology had previously been criticized by some 200 political scientists, while focusing on his claims about Kansas non-citizen voter registration. One estimation Richman provided, alleging 32,000 non-citizens registered to vote, was extrapolated from a survey of 14 reported non-citizens registrants.
“The first problem with Dr. Richman’s estimate is that the sample size is too small,” Robinson said, adding that Richman’s published findings about non-citizen voting can be accounted for entirely “by citizenship misreporting” and that his estimate also “suffers from registration overreporting.”
That and the other three estimates for non-citizen registration Richman provided, when “taken individually or as a whole,” were “flawed,” Robinson said.
“The Court finds Dr. Richman’s testimony and report about the methodology and basis for concluding that a statistically significant number of non-citizens have registered to vote in Kansas, are confusing, inconsistent, and methodologically flawed.”
Steven Camarota, the director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, had experience “limited to scholarship and reports that generally deal with immigration and citizenship issues,” Robinson wrote, “not election issues such as voter registration.”
Yet Kobach brought him in to testify on “voter registration statistics, and voter participation rates,” testimony Robinson ultimately excluded.
At the trial, he argued that the uptick in voter registration and turn out between the Kansas midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 showed that the law, which was implemented in 2013, did not make it harder to vote.
Robinson said Monday that Camarota was “not qualified to explain the reasons for the change in data between 2010 and 2014, or to insert assumptions into the record based on studies or academic literature regarding voter registration and turnout.”
“These are not his areas of expertise,” she said, ruling that his expertise was limited to his explanation of certain Census data.
“[H]e is not qualified as an expert in voter registration, voting trends, or election issues, so he is not qualified to opine on issues of causation.”
Read the judge’s opinion below:
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