TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Kansas’ top elections official to produce a plan on homeland security issues that he took to a meeting with President Donald Trump as potential evidence in a voting rights lawsuit.
U.S. Magistrate James O’Hara ruled that the document from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could be relevant to a federal lawsuit challenging a 2013 state law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. O’Hara also ordered Kobach to produce a second internal office document.
O’Hara directed Kobach to provide the two documents by 5 p.m. Thursday so that the magistrate can examine them in private. O’Hara said he would then decide whether the documents are relevant and, if they are, what information attorneys challenging the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement would see.
Kobach met with Trump in November in New Jersey, and an Associated Press photo of them together showed Kobach holding a stack of papers. The top page outlined a “strategic plan” for homeland security for Trump’s first year in office that could include changes in federal voting laws. The second document Kobach must produce is an internal office draft of proposed changes in federal voting laws.
“If he (the magistrate) decides they’re relevant, we still may only get access to them under a protective order or something,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s voting rights project.
Kobach declined to comment through his spokeswoman.
The Kansas secretary of state is a conservative Republican who has championed both strict voter identification laws and tough policies against illegal immigration. He was an early Kansas supporter of Trump and advised Trump’s campaign.
The ACLU is representing the League of Women Voters of Kansas and six prospective voters in the lawsuit, which was filed last year.
It’s one of several challenges to the proof-of-citizenship requirement. Federal court orders have narrowed its scope temporarily while the lawsuits proceed, so that new voters who register at state motor vehicle offices or use a federal form do not have to produce a birth certificate, passport or other documents proving U.S. citizenship for now.
Kobach touts the proof-of-citizenship requirement as an anti-fraud measure that will prevent noncitizens from voting. A top Trump aide also cited him in December as a source of Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of people cast ballots illegally last year.
Critics of the Kansas law contend that voting by noncitizens is not a substantial problem and that the proof-of-citizenship requirement suppresses turnout because some eligible citizens do not have ready access to the proper documents.
Ho said Kobach must show that potential voting by noncitizens is a substantial problem and that measures less restrictive than the proof-of-citizenship law cannot adequately combat such fraud. He said the ACLU’s attorneys sought access to the two documents to see whether Kobach has suggested changes in federal law that don’t involve a proof-of-citizenship requirement.
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .
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