A Washington group has renewed its call for an investigation of Brian Newby, the former head of the Johnson County Election Office and now in charge of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, or EAC.
Allied Progress has written the EAC’s inspector general, asking her to examine Newby’s decision to approve applications from three states, including Kansas, to modify their federal registration forms in order to require documentary proof of citizenship to register.
Newby made the decision to allow the changes despite the absence of formal approval from the EAC’s board of comissioners. Newby said he had the authority to make the decision on his own.
Several groups sued to stop implementation of the requirement. In September, a federal appeals court blocked Kansas and the other states from changing their federal forms to require citizenship proof.
This spring, Allied Progress asked the IG to investigate Newby — and his communications with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and others, about the controversial decision. The EAC’s IG office declined, citing the pending court case.
Thursday, the group said the legal battle was over, and now it wants to find out what Newby knew, and when he knew it.
“Mr. Newby may have violated … policy by having what appear to be private, off-the-record communications with state officials from Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama regarding the imposition of a requirement that applicants for voter registration include documentary proof of U.S. citizenship,” the group’s director says in a letter to the IG.
“We therefore renew our request that your office open an investigation into Mr. Newby’s actions without further delay.”
Kobach said in a phone interview Thursday that he was surprised the group has renewed the call for an investigation.
“It's unclear what they're trying to do,” Kobach said. “Perhaps they're trying to put political pressure on Mr. Newby, or perhaps they're just trying to raise money from their donors.”
He also disagreed that the legal battle was over, saying that the case “was far from resolved” and that there was only a preliminary injunction ruling without an opinion.
"One thing that the critics of Mr. Newby's decision constantly forget or fail to mention is that a federal regulation required him to make the decision he did,” Kobach said.
“There's a federal regulation that states the contents of the federal form must reflect the state law of the relevant state and since Kansas state law requires proof of citizenship, the federal form instructions for Kansas have to require proof of citizenship. That's binding federal regulation.”
In their successful legal brief to the appeals court, the groups opposing the requirement said “… neither the EAC’s organic statute nor its commissioners have delegated to Mr. Newby the authority to reverse the commission’s longstanding policy and precedent that documentary proof of citizenship should not be required with the Federal Form.
“At bottom, Mr. Newby’s decision represented a radical departure from EAC precedent, inexcusably rendered without the approval of three Commissioners as required.”
A spokesman for the EAC declined to comment. We haven’t heard from the IG’s office.