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Illegal Voting? Not Much in Kobach's Home State

Kris Kobach, the co-chair of President Donald Trump’s vote fraud commission, says he's the man for the job. Critics, and the numbers, tell a different story.
Image: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens as President Donald Trump speaks
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach listens as President Donald Trump speaks during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington on July 19, 2017.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Kris Kobach, the co-chair of President Donald Trump’s vote fraud commission, says he’s the right man for the job, pointing to his record of rooting out illegal voting as Secretary of State in Kansas.

But despite ramping up anti-fraud efforts, Kobach hasn’t reached double digits when it comes to proving wrongdoing.

He was elected in 2010 as Secretary of State — a job that gave Kobach authority in administering and maintaining state elections — and became deputized in 2015 to prosecute instances of alleged voter fraud.

In the two years, he’s had nine convictions.

Most were older individuals who had misunderstood their voting rights — and just one was a noncitizen.

About 1.8 million people are registered to vote in Kansas.

"I’ve been fighting voter fraud in my state of Kansas for over six years now and have been very specific about what we need to do and what other states should also consider doing," Kobach told Fox News on Wednesday.

Kobach recently told NBC News that he expected more convictions to follow from ongoing investigations stemming from 2016 elections.

Critics, however, point to several instances of Kobach overstating alleged voter fraud.

In particular, they cite his estimate that 18,000 noncitizens had been registered to vote in Kansas — a since-debunked claim first made by Jesse Richman, a professor of political science at Old Dominion University.

That number, according to voting rights groups and news outlets, including The New York Times, was the misleading result of a convoluted extrapolation from Richman having discovered six noncitizens on a list of Kansans with temporary drivers’ licenses who “either registered to vote or attempted to register to vote.”

"When we see these inflated numbers, it reveals issues with his methodology that essentially put a huge dent in his claims," said Tomas Lopez, who focuses on voting rights and elections at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School. "He puts out these big numbers and then never follows up."

Lopez, who co-authored a report for the center detailing Kobach’s “anti-voting history,” also noted Kobach's 2010 secretary of state campaign, when he said 2,000 deceased residents were still registered to vote in Kansas.

In one such alleged case, the Brennan Center’s report explained, Kobach "claimed there was a ‘very real possibility’ that a ballot had been cast in the name of a deceased man named Albert Brewer."

But reporters from the Wichita Eagle quickly found Brewer alive and well at his home. It was the voter’s father, also named Albert Brewer, who had died, and the identities of the two men had been mixed up in the registration process — a common occurrence that Lopez said Kobach labeled as fraud.

"The existence of voter impersonation and voter fraud is really quite rare," Lopez said, echoing a consensus reached by experts across the political spectrum.

Supporters counter that during his time as secretary of state Kobach helped to write and oversee the enforcement of a strict voter identification law requiring most Kansas residents to provide proof of citizenship to register and to show a photo ID to cast a ballot.

"He has a progression of jobs and experiences that show he is to be able to look at data analytically and act on it," said Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who has known Kobach for 10 years.

Ashcroft, who helped engineer his own state’s tough voter ID laws, said the Trump commission needed someone who was "equipped with the tools" to go after voter fraud — even if it doesn’t uncover a lot of it.

"He will follow the facts," he said.