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Home Human Rights Trump’s chief vote suppressor runs for governor

Trump’s chief vote suppressor runs for governor

Kris Kobach maybe the most important person in America right now.

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The man that well-coiffed racist, Richard Spencer, calls a “draconian illegal immigration enforcer” is now running for Governor of Kansas

That enforcer made his announcement just hours after the euthanasia of Governor Brownback’s “Kansas Experiment” by the state legislature. Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, stepping over the corpse of Brownback’s political career took to the stage and announced that he would be starting his campaign for Kansas’ highest office.

The Kansas Experiment, as coined by many, was a failed low-to-no business tax trickle down economics test that didn’t just not work, it nearly took the states economy with it. Brownback, who got advice from the same right wing economists as Trump, in 2015 had “$44.5 million cut from public education” according to Vox.com.

Kansas is, of course home to three things – yellow brick roads, the Koch Brothers and voter suppression laws. But first let me catch you up on just who is Kris Kobach.

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I’ve been following the political career of Kris Kobach for the last 10 years. For most of those 10, his name would only pop up on legal documents, occasionally in the footnotes of an article on the Southern Poverty Law Center blog. But then, in 2011, he became Secretary of State of Kansas and that’s when his name really started to explode.

But Kobach’s resume didn’t just begin with an election for Secretary of State. He got his real start after 9/11 in the Bush Administration. If you know anything about the man, you won’t be surprised that his first gig was working for Attorney General John Ashcroft as his chief advisor on immigration law and border security. He would end up building a database that would track Muslims entering the country. By the time Obama came to the Presidency, the database was done away with, seen as too racist and ineffective.

Flash forward to 2010, after a couple successful court cases, Kobach became the go to man to write legislation to make it tougher for undocumented immigrants to live in the U.S. Of course, for most of the places that wanted that legislation written, it wasn’t to get rid of just the “illegal” ones.

Kris Kobach in 2010 became the proud father of SB1070, what would become known as the “Paper’s Please” law. He would then oversee several other ‘citizenship laws’ around the country. As investigative journalist, Greg Palast said on a podcast with Dennis Bernstein called The Election Crimes Report:

“It’s quite unusual that Kobach, as Secretary of State of Kansas, is still counsel, a lawyer, for a group IRLI, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of two allied groups called Numbers USA and FAIR. FAIR is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a hate group. It was founded by John Tanton, who says the purpose of the group is to maintain a “European American majority.”

Kobach is a busy man – even while doing all this, he managed to act as a lawyer for the then Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Who has since lost his job and has a decent chance of ending up in jail. It just won’t be his famous Tent City, they’re dismantling that one.

While acting as Secretary of State, Kobach has spent his time making a new name for himself – the “King of Voter Suppression.” He had always been a strong supporter of voter ID laws, and made proving your citizenship a part of the process to receive the right to vote in Kansas, at least briefly. In 2014 though, I uncovered, with the help of the ACLU, a new program of voter suppression, named Interstate Crosscheck, and Kobach’s name was all over it.

Using Crosscheck, Kobach claimed that there were millions of people voting twice, going from state to state and screwing with American elections. Trump even repeated the claim. Possibly he was confused with the Russians. (I kid.)

The problem was – beyond the pure on the face ridiculousness of it all – that he was just matching simple first and last names on an excel sheet and claiming that the people that matched, should be pulled off the voter rolls. People being randomly pulled off the voter rolls would be bad enough, but when we looked at the lists that we had to FOIA from Georgia and Virginia (only four states answered our FOIA’s, AK and OR’s were not useful) we discovered something terrifying.

To quote Palast’s writing on Crosscheck in Rolling Stone magazine:

“Statistical analysis found that African-American, Latino and Asian names predominate, a simple result of the Crosscheck matching process, which spews out little more than a bunch of common names. No surprise: The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names. If your name is Washington, there’s an 89 percent chance you’re African-American. If your last name is Hernandez, there’s a 94 percent chance you’re Hispanic. If your name is Kim, there’s a 95 percent chance you’re Asian.

”This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? ‘I’m a data guy,’ Swedlund  [our statistician] says. ‘I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.’”

This scheme had been playing out under our noses for years, much like the alt-right that Kobach has been the personal lawyer to. Kobach was the man behind Trump’s border wall, the Muslim Ban and now, he’s joined Vice President Pence on the Election Integrity Commission. With the Election Assistance Commission run by a friend of Kobach’s from Kansas, the voting rights act in shambles and Crosscheck in 30 states it’s not looking good for democracy in America.

Kris Kobach maybe the most important person in America right now. As a person who writes often about voting issues, I usually hate using the mis-attributed Stalin quote, “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.”

While Kobach’s slightly higher tech forms of voter suppression may seem less frightening than the brutal beatings and lynchings and suppression of the 60’s, it’s really just the same people from that old documentary series The Eyes on the Prize running the show.  Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke plays Bull Connor, Trump plays George Wallce. And Kris Kobach has left the white sheets of Jim Crow for the spreadsheets of Dr. James Crow, systems analyst.




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