Kris Kobach found in contempt of court, and Kansas pays a price

The Kansas secretary of state’s latest transgression is a disappointment — but not a surprise.
The Kansas secretary of state’s latest transgression is a disappointment — but not a surprise. AP

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been found in contempt of a federal court for his actions — or inactions — related to thousands of Kansans who wanted to vote in 2016.

Kobach’s latest transgression should be a severe disappointment to Kansas residents, but it should not be a surprise. The words “contempt” and “Kobach” often end up in the same sentence.

In this case, District Judge Julie Robinson found “clear and convincing evidence” that Kobach and his office failed to fully comply with her 2016 order concerning registrants who did not provide “proof of citizenship” documents while registering at the DMV.

Those registrants were entitled to vote, Robinson had ruled. And she told Kobach she wanted those voters to get a registration postcard, just like other voters.

“Kansans traditionally consider these postcards as confirmation that they are successfully registered to vote,” the judge wrote Wednesday.

The secretary of state did not completely comply, Robinson ruled. Instead, Kobach’s “confusing notices, and his patent failure to fully inform and monitor compliance … caused confusion and misinformation.”

Naturally, the secretary attempted to blame others for the problem. The judge would have none of it. “The Court is troubled by (Kobach’s) failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders,” she wrote.

Kobach, a Republican candidate for governor, plans an appeal.

Any Kansan who spends time studying the record in this long-running case will be appalled by the secretary’s behavior. He used misdirection, sophistry and feigned confusion to avoid doing what the court clearly ordered.

But he is far less clever than he thinks, as the judge demonstrated this week. She saw through Kobach’s all-too-familiar okey-doke and found him in contempt.

Kansas voters will soon have a chance to reach their own verdicts.

Kobach has shown contempt for a judge, and for voters, but he’s contemptuous of lots of other things: teachers and students, legislators, immigrants, the press, anyone who dares question his view of the world.

He recently suggested students and parents in Kansas should be satisfied with computer-less trailers as schoolrooms. Americans worried about gun violence are “exploiting” a tragedy. Kansas is a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants. And so on.

Kansas voters should see Robinson’s ruling as fair warning: Kobach listens to no one but himself. And he’s often wrong.

Taxpayers may have to pay the penalty if the contempt ruling sticks. In many ways, Kansas has paid a price for electing Kobach.