Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he supports President-elect Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election.
Trump has argued that he would have beaten Democrat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote count if not for illegal votes cast. Clinton leads Trump by more than 2 million votes, but Trump won the presidency by winning the Electoral College.
“I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton at this point,” says Kobach.
Trump hasn’t cited evidence showing millions of illegal votes, and Kobach says evidence is hard to come by.
“This is the problem with aliens voting and aliens registering. There’s no way you can look on the voter rolls and say ‘this one’s an alien, this one’s a citizen.' Once a person gets on the voter rolls, you don’t have any way of easily identifying those aliens,” says Kobach.
Kobach's comments, and his reasoning, were blasted by some critics of Kansas voting policies. Dale Ho is director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
"I'd say that it's shocking for Mr. Kobach to make such plainly false assertions," says Ho.
Kobach reaches his estimate that millions of people voted illegally nationwide by citing a controversial study of survey results. The study found that 11 percent of survey respondents said they were non-citizens and had voted. The authors of the study actually adjusted the rate of non-citizens voting down to 6.5 percent after including additional information.
Some critics of the study's conclusions have noted the small sample size, 339 self-reported non-citizens, and other issues they say cast doubts on the conclusions.
Kobach multiplies the number of non-citizens in the U.S., about 28 million, by 11 percent to concluded millions of illegal votes were cast.
"We don't have a hard number, because it's impossible to get that hard number. We can estimate that the same percentage probably voted in 2016. That gives us 3.2 million aliens," says Kobach.
Some of Kobach's critics contend there's a simple reason that evidence of widespread voter fraud hasn't come to the surface: because there isn't widespread illegal voting.
"It's impossible to find because it doesn't exist," says Mark Johnson, an attorney who has challenged Kansas voting policies.
Johnson calls it "irresponsible" for Kobach to endorse Trump's claims about illegal voting. Johnson says the study Kobach cited has been "severely criticized" and Kobach shouldn't use it to conclude that millions of people voted illegally.
"It doesn't make any sense. You're talking about having tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people vote illegally in many, many different states. It just doesn't make sense that every state in the country would make the same mistake," says Johnson.
When speaking to reporters Tuesday, Kobach pointed to documents from Sedgwick County produced for a lawsuit over Kansas voting rules. They show more than two dozen non-citizens tried or registered to vote in the county since 2003. Three people who were non-citizens actually voted.
"We have hard, physical evidence in Kansas when we've done the research," says Kobach.
Doug Bonney, with the ACLU of Kansas, draws a different conclusion from those numbers.
"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," says Bonney.
Kobach was an early Trump supporter and has served as an advisor to Trump. When asked if he helped Trump reach his claimed number of millions of illegal votes, Kobach would not say.
“I’m not going to talk about Mr. Tump’s comments other than to simply say they’re correct,” says Kobach.
Kobach also wouldn't say if he's in the running for a job in the Trump administration. He met with Trump earlier this month and was photographed holding a plan for the Department of Homeland Security.