President Donald Trump has named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair of a group that will study voter fraud. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity will be headed by Vice President Mike Pence.
Reached by phone, Kobach’s spokesperson, Samantha Poetter, would not comment about the commission. Poetter said Kobach plans to stay in his job as Kansas secretary of state.
Presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the commission will study issues that affect the confidence of Americans in the election system.
“And provide the president with a report that identifies system vulnerabilities that lead to improper registrations and voting. The experts and officials on this commission will follow the facts where they lead,” said Huckabee Sanders.
Mark Johnson is an attorney, and frequent Kobach critic, who has challenged Kansas voting policies in court. He’s hoping Kobach and the commission conduct a fair investigation.
“I think the concern that many people have would be that his prior statements about the so-called existence of voter fraud might color his view of the evidence that’s going to be presented in the investigation, but I hope he puts all that aside,” says Johnson.
Kobach announced on Fox News last month that he wasn’t leaving his job, putting an end to months of speculation that he'd join the Trump administration.
“I have had a great relationship with the president, and I continue to advise him," said Kobach. "I’ve decided the best thing to do right now is to stay in my home state of Kansas, but I will continue to provide some advice to the president.”
Serving on this panel could be a way for Kobach to work with the Trump administration while still keeping his job as the secretary of state.
Kobach was an early Trump supporter and has advised Trump on immigration and voting issues. He’s also backed up Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud.
There’s been a legal fight over a piece of paper Kobach was carrying before a meeting with Trump last year. Photos showed some of the policy proposals on the paper. A court has ordered Kobach to turn over the document.
Fighting voter fraud and illegal immigration has been a constant banner carried by Kobach during his political career. He’s secured the right to prosecute crimes and has netted convictions for double voting. He’s frequently said there are threats from non-citizens voting.
“Every time a non-citizen votes in an election, not only does it potentially swing that election if it’s close, it cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen,” said Kobach in an interview last year.
Kobach’s critics have argued that he’s exaggerating the issue of voter fraud.
"The concrete evidence is that this is not a problem. Very, very few people who are non-citizens have tried to register to vote in Kansas," said Doug Bonney, with the ACLU of Kansas, in an interview last year.
Kobach successfully pushed for tighter voter registration and voter ID requirements. Kobach has said the rules helped secured the state’s elections, but his critics have said the requirements block legal voters.