Government & Politics

Kris Kobach agrees with Donald Trump that ‘millions’ voted illegally but offers no evidence

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach stood by President-elect Donald Trump’s unfounded claim that millions of illegal votes skewed the popular vote in the presidential election.

He did it Wednesday without offering any firm evidence of voter fraud happening in the Nov. 8 election. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, according to media reports. Because of the projected Electoral College tally, Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the election to Trump, despite her popular vote lead of more than 2 million.

“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,” Kobach said.

Kobach said it was a “reasonable estimate” that 3.2 million people could have voted illegally based off a survey of the 2008 presidential election. The Kansas secretary of state said data showed that 11.3 percent of non-citizens in the United States said they had voted in that year’s election.

“Can you necessarily conclude that all of them voted for Hillary Clinton? No,” Kobach said. “But you can probably conclude that a very high percentage voted for Hillary Clinton given the diametric opposite positions of the two candidates on the immigration issue.”

That number appears in a 2014 analysis written by professors at Old Dominion University in Virginia that was widely criticized after it appeared on The Washington Post’s website.

Old Dominion political scientists used data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study to estimate in one chart that 11.3 percent of non-citizens turned out to vote in the 2008 presidential election.

But that wasn’t the estimate they stuck to.

“Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008,” they wrote.

The earlier 11.3 percentage was the center point of Kobach’s voter fraud claim Wednesday.

In 2014, members of the Harvard-run Cooperative Congressional Election Study, whose data the Old Dominion professors used, called the analysis a “biased estimate.”

“The likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent U.S. elections is 0,” the group said in a paper refuting the Old Dominion study.

Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in an email that the study Kobach talked about Wednesday has been debunked.

The ACLU attorney has fought Kobach in court over the proof of citizenship law that the Kansas secretary of state has enthusiastically supported during his time in office.

“I’d say that it’s shocking for Mr. Kobach to make such plainly false assertions, but he’s been peddling these lies for quite some time,” Ho said in the email.

Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas political science professor, was skeptical of Kobach’s use of the survey data.

“He’s taking that at face value,” Miller said. “Whereas, we know that people often give trash responses in surveys all the time…

“As useful as I do think surveys can be, it’s just hard to take that with any kind of real world validity. Where’s the actual evidence?”

Kobach, who said he advised Trump during the campaign, met with the president-elect earlier in November amid rumors that he may join the administration.

An Associated Press photograph taken of Kobach going into the meeting showed that he was holding an outline for changes to the Department of Homeland Security. That plan included halting the intake of Syrian refugees and reviving a national security tracking system.

The only “hard, physical evidence” Kobach cited in Wednesday’s allegation came from Kansas. The Kansas secretary of state has said in court that 25 non-citizens were either on the voter rolls or had tried to register to vote in Sedgwick County.

Those cases happened between 2003 and 2016, and only three of the 25 on the list actually voted, according to a document from Kobach’s office. Kobach has used that data in court to help defend the state’s proof of citizenship law. It requires new Kansas voters to show a document like a passport to prove they are citizens.

A series of court orders earlier this year took away that requirement for Kansans who registered to vote in the 2016 election through federal means.

“This is the problem with aliens voting and aliens registering,” Kobach said. “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 them as aliens.”

When asked about Kobach’s allegation, Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas GOP, said that there’s “no way of knowing.”

“I hear a lot of claims,” Barker said. “I’m not sure what he’s basing it on.”

Bryan Lowry from The Wichita Eagle contributed to this report.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw