Judge Knocks DOJ Claim That Kobach Can’t Speak For Voter Fraud Panel

Kobach or another commission member must explain exactly what has happened with the commission's voter data, a judge orders.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens and takes note as a judge declares in Shawnee County District Court that the state must count potentially thousands of votes from people who registered without providing documentation of their U.S. citizenship, Friday, July 29, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. Kobach had directed local election officials to count only their votes in federal races, not state and local ones. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
John Hanna/AP

A federal judge didn’t buy the Justice Department’s argument that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach couldn’t speak to what was being done with the data collected by the now-defunct voter fraud commission he led. The judge ordered that Kobach or another commission member file a declaration giving a full explanation.

The declaration will state “what information was collected or created by the
Commission and/or its members on behalf of the Commission, where that information was and is being stored, by whom the information has been accessed, and what plans were made by the Commission to maintain or dispose of the information,” U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said Thursday.

The order came in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Florida against the commission and Florida last year, for turning over state voter roll data Kobach had requested.

President Trump dissolved the commission earlier this month, citing the many lawsuits that it faced.  Litigation around the ACLU-Florida case, and some of other legal challenges, has continued. The Justice Department had previously submitted a declaration from a White House information technology official in charge of its storage of the data in which he said the data will not be turned over to the Department of Homeland Security, where Kobach has said the voter fraud investigation will continue.

The Justice Department also submitted a letter from Kobach agreeing not to transfer the data to DHS himself. But the government has also argued that it can’t compel Kobach to do anything in the case because the government does not believe he should be treated as a defendant now that the commission has been terminated.

“In light of statements made by Mr. Kobach after the termination of the
Commission, additional information regarding the Commission and its activities is necessary to render an informed decision on Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion,” the judge said Friday. “Federal Defendants should not be able to avoid making statements regarding the Commission simply because the Commission was terminated—and terminated specifically as a result of pending lawsuits.”

Read the full order below:

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