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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — A spreadsheet created by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office became a focal point in the trial over Kansas’ voter registration proof-of-citizenship requirement. The spreadsheet shows that only five alleged non-citizens have voted in Sedgwick County, the second most populous Kansas county, over the last two decades.

Those alleged non-citizen voters cast collectively about 10-12 votes, the earliest in 2004, testimony revealed. According to the challengers in the case, that’s out of 1.3 million votes cast in the relevant time period in the county. Sedgwick County accounts for a little over one sixth of Kansas’ population.

Yet Kobach is using those examples to defend his proof-of-citizenship requirement, which was implemented in 2013. An appeals court has said Kobach must prove that non-citizen voting is a “substantial” problem in Kansas. So the spreadsheet — along with testimony expected in the days to come from “experts” in voter fraud — is key to Kobach’s argument. 

The ACLU, which is representing some of the challengers, sought to show that the list was inflated.

Incompetence continues on day three of the Kobach voting rights trial. Read a reporter’s notebook (Prime access) on this post »

The spreadsheet details 38 cases where non-citizens purportedly voted, registered to vote or attempted to register to vote. Eighteen successfully registered before the law was enacted, 16 were blocked by the law, and four registered after the law was temporarily blocked in 2016, the spreadsheet alleges.

It was discussed during the testimony of Tabitha Lehman, the county’s election commissioner.

Lehman testified that her office started collecting the data systematically in 2013, and that she would send the information about each instance to the secretary of state’s office, which assembled the spread sheet. Part of Lehman’s effort included sending her staff to naturalization ceremonies. There they could identify people who had registered as non-citizens when they attempted to register again — a service offered at naturalization ceremonies — now that they were citizens.

Many of the people cited on the spreadsheet as non-citizens had registered at the DMV, where people getting drivers licenses or state IDs are also asked if they want to register to vote.

In her questioning of Lehman, an ACLU attorney representing the challengers noted that in some cases the non-citizens never voted, even after being registered for seven, 12, and even 18 years. Some of those people only discovered that they had been registered at their naturalization ceremony, when they sought to register, the testimony revealed.

In another case, a non-citizen applicant was called by an elections official to verify the applicant’s name, which it appeared had been taken down incorrectly. The applicant told the official that he or she did in fact change their name, but also that they previously had sought to get themselves removed from the voter rolls, according to notes on a page of the spreadsheet that were displayed in the courtroom.

One non-citizen had not checked the box indicating he or she was a citizen on the voter registration form.

A line from Kobach’s questioning seemed intended to suggest that what Lehman’s office had helped the Secretary of State’s office record was only the tip of the iceberg. He asked Lehman if her predecessor collected the non-citizen registration. Not that she knew of, she said. He asked if she was aware of other counties that collected their own data or sent election staff to naturalization ceremonies. She said she was not aware to both questions.

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Ultra-conservative super-attorney Chuck Cooper likes to talk about his ability to maintain amicable relationships in even the most polarizing circumstances. When he and Ted Olson, a former colleague of his from the Reagan Justice Department, found each other on opposing sides of the high-profile Proposition 8 same-sex marriage case, they hugged before trial every day.

A December 2016 breakfast with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was no different. Cooper, a top campaign advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), had watched Sessions, a fellow Alabamian and longtime friend, endorse then-candidate Donald Trump in what would turn into an extremely bitter primary.

“We went to our separate corners during the campaign,” Cooper recounted to TPM in an interview last month.

But when Sessions, who Trump had picked for attorney general, reached out to Cooper for help with the confirmation process, they quickly reconnected. Dining at Bistro Bis, a restaurant attached to the tony George Hotel near the Capitol, Sessions and Cooper discussed not just Sessions’ nomination but the shape his Justice Department should take under Trump and who should fill its leadership ranks.

Since then, Cooper has been one of Sessions’ most important allies, with him at every step of his tumultuous tenure. He prepared Sessions for his brutal confirmation hearing and, during the transition, the two even contemplated Cooper joining Sessions at the Department as his solicitor general, the only government job for which Cooper would consider leaving his highly successful private practice. By that June, Sessions retained Cooper as his private attorney for the various Russia probes, and Cooper was at Sessions’ side when special counsel Robert Mueller’s team interviewed the attorney general in January.

I am representing him in connection with anything that is a threat,” Cooper said of Sessions.

Cooper and the cufflinks with the symbol his law firm firm’s motto, “victory or death.”

For an attorney who likes to call himself the “happiest lawyer in private practice,” Cooper faces a precarious task. Not only have Democrats targeted Sessions, accusing him of obscuring Russian contacts during the campaign, but Sessions is often now the subject of unprecedented ire from the President who appointed him over his decision to recuse himself from the federal Russia investigation.

Yet both Cooper’s supporters and his critics agree that he’s a perfect fit for the job. The epitome of a Washington insider, Cooper has spent the last two decades leading a boutique D.C. law firm with the motto “victory or death.” Before that, he was a top official in the Reagan Justice Department, where he navigated thorny and at-times controversial questions about the separation of powers.

“Jeff is incredibly fortunate to have a lawyer as talented and skilled as Chuck Cooper, along with a lawyer that has careful and sound and sober judgement,” Cruz — who, early in his career, worked at Cooper’s law firm — told TPM.

“I was interested in helping my old friend”

While they both grew up in Alabama, Cooper and Sessions did not meet until the 1980s, when they both worked for the Reagan administration. They have remained friends since. Cooper contributed financially to Sessions’ political ambitions, and over the years he has served as a sounding board for Sessions, as they share a deeply conservative ideology.

But the two found themselves on opposite sides of the 2016 Republican primary.

“I was pleading with [Sessions] to support Ted [Cruz] and not endorse Trump, and I failed to persuade him, unfortunately,” Cooper told TPM. He unsuccessfully lobbied Sessions over a few phone calls and texts not long after Trump’s August 2015 rally in Alabama.

While Sessions helped lead a crusade with Cruz to defeat the 2013 bipartisan immigration bill, he also found himself drawn to the New York real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star. By Cooper’s account, Sessions and then-candidate Trump were more “simpatico” on trade, and the presence of a former Sessions aide, Stephen Miller, on Trump’s campaign brought the Alabama senator even closer into the fold.

Sessions’ February 2016 endorsement of Trump – his first from a sitting senator — was a major achievement for Trump’s campaign.

“I didn’t realize that it was a losing cause from the beginning,” Cooper said, referring to his efforts to get Sessions to endorse Cruz instead.

What was a losing cause for Cooper was a winning bet for Sessions, whose early support of Trump secured him an attorney general appointment — a previously unthinkable ascent for the 71-year-old hard-right conservative, 30 years after the Senate rejected his nomination to be a federal judge.

Despite an ugly intra-party fight between their respective candidates, Cooper and Sessions maintained  “friendly adversarial contact” during the GOP primary, though Cooper admitted that “it wasn’t easy.”

“Trump of course was extraordinarily hostile, scornful, ridiculing Ted in every possible way — ‘Lyin’ Ted’ — so those things bruise, but it didn’t affect the relationship,” Cooper said, though he and Sessions did fall out of contact during the general election.

After Sessions was nominated for attorney general, however, he sought his old friend’s assistance to prepare for what was shaping up to be a grueling confirmation process.

“I was interested in helping my old friend, who I thought and believed then — and think today — would be and is a terrific attorney general, a man of consequence, a man whose conservative values I share, and who is energetic and forceful and firm in his beliefs and would advance them, even at some costs,” Cooper said.

<<enter caption here>> on December 6, 2010 in San Francisco, California.
Charles Cooper speaks to reporters at a news conference following a hearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 6, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

Cooper, 65, has been involved in a number of high-stakes congressional hearings, including the successful effort to put Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, the failed nomination of Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork and his own successful confirmation as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

An exchange “that would come to haunt him”

For Sessions, Cooper led an intense preparation period over five weeks that included six “murder boards”— sessions of mock grilling — that Cooper said lasted a half day each.

“I was very proud of his performance and I was proud of our team for how well-prepared he was,” Cooper said.

He said that after the marathon confirmation hearing, he loved watching news anchors “who were very much not friendly to the idea of Jeff Sessions becoming attorney general” sound “despondent” when they described Sessions’ performance.

“‘Well, he didn’t say anything, he was so prepared,'” Cooper said, recalling the news coverage. “You’re damn right.”

He said the confirmation hearing “was a great triumph” for Sessions.

“Little did we know that there was this exchange with [then-Minnesota Sen. Al] Franken that would come to haunt him — and me — in one congressional hearing after another,” Cooper said.

During the now-notorious exchange with Franken, Sessions said he did not have “communications with the Russians” during the campaign. At the time, his claim did not cause much of a stir — even Cooper didn’t think about it in the moment. But less than two months later, the Washington Post reported that Sessions had met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016, in two separate interactions.

Sessions’ spokespeople scrambled to explain the omission, which also occurred in a written confirmation questionnaire, by arguing that Sessions met with Kislyak in his capacity as a senator, not in the context of the campaign. Under pressure from Democrats for that revelation and others, Sessions publicly announced his recusal from the federal Russia probe — a recusal that has continued to tax his relationship with Trump.

What remains most puzzling about Sessions’ slip-up is that he answered a question that Franken hadn’t even asked him. Franken’s wind-up included a monologue about allegations that Trump campaign surrogates communicated continually with intermediaries for the Russians, but he asked Sessions what he would do as attorney general if evidence of such communications came to light.

“That was the one moment in the confirmation hearing when his discipline and his preparation may have lagged,” Cooper told TPM.

“Instead of answering the question — and hearing the question and answering the question — which is of course, your witness, you want your witness to do,” Cooper said, “he heard the thing that was threatening and that his mind arrested on or seized on in this lengthy statement by Franken, and the one thing that he wanted to put on the record and make clear, there could be no doubt or confusion about, was that he was such a surrogate.”

 

After Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey, with Sessions recused, the DOJ official next in the line of leadership — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — made the call to appoint Mueller as special counsel in charge of the federal Russia probe.

Mueller’s ongoing investigation has continued to dog Trump — reportedly prompting outbursts of anger from the President — while it continues to rack up charges against members of Trump’s circle. Two of his campaign associates, as well his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, have entered guilty pleas and are cooperating with Mueller’s probe. Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort faces a slew of charges, and Mueller has filed indictments against Russians who allegedly mounted a social media campaign to influence American voters.

Sessions has been swept up in the probe not only because of his experience on Trump’s campaign but due to Mueller’s investigation of obstruction of justice allegations. As the probe has gained public momentum, Trump and his allies have attacked Sessions for not cracking down on what they claim to be DOJ abuses in the federal investigation. Trump’s public and private attacks on Sessions have attracted the special counsel’s attention, the Washington Post reported last week, as part of the obstruction inquiry.

Besides Mueller’s investigation, congressional committees are pursuing a series of competing probes that have featured closely watched hearings, partisan infighting and plenty of leaks.

Cooper told TPM that he sees parallels between the current moment and the Iran-Contra affair, which he recalled “threatened the very foundations” of the Reagan administration.

Cooper was part of a small group including DOJ officials Brad Reynolds and John Richards that then-attorney general Ed Meese assembled in 1986 and tasked with undertaking an internal investigation over the Thanksgiving weekend into the secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. After Reynolds and Richards found an incriminating document among National Security Council deputy director Oliver North’s files detailing the diversion of profits from the arms sales to Nicaragua’s contras, they told Meese and Cooper over lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill. The group, in turn, confronted North that Sunday evening in an interview that Meese led.

“We did a herculean job over the Thanksgiving weekend. Our families were not too happy about it. And then we went to the President and said, guess what, we’ve got a problem here,” Reynolds recounted to TPM.

By Cooper and Reynolds’ accounts, Meese and Reagan’s decisions to act quickly on what they learned from their internal investigation may have saved Reagan’s presidency. Other top DOJ officials questioned why a group of Meese’s closest advisors — rather than Criminal Division attorneys and FBI investigators — were put in charge of the initial probe in the first place.

Regardless, what they uncovered kicked off a congressional investigation that included months of hearings as well as an independent counsel investigation that resulted in a dozen convictions. Cooper appeared in front of a select congressional committee just before North testified; he told lawmakers he wouldn’t trust North to tell the truth, even under oath.

“All roads lead to Chuck”

Cooper was hired to the Justice Department after graduating first in his class from the University of Alabama (a few years after Sessions) and served a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. He grew up aspiring to be a professional baseball player and considered a legal career his “Plan B.”

At the Department of Justice, Cooper started in the Civil Rights Division, where he worked under Reynolds, and then moved to the Office of Legal Counsel, a powerful office responsible for providing the executive branch with legal advice.

His Reagan administration colleagues remember Cooper as being extremely hard-working, meticulous and thoughtful — a fan of “noodling,” as one DOJ attorney remembered Cooper calling his practice of thinking through tough issues.

“He speaks with great care and formality, in sort of a Southern way, if you will, he’s kept as part of his persona,” Doug Kmiec, a top Office of Legal Counsel attorney under Reagan, told TPM. He added that Cooper was “very comfortable” dealing with unsettled legal questions.

Meese, in an interview with TPM, praised Cooper as a “a very good trial attorney” with a “great legal mind” and “very good judgment.” He said that Cooper is “able to get along well with others,” which could be helpful for Sessions as he deals with lawyers on the other side of the investigation.

Roger Clegg, who worked at the Justice Department with Cooper, said Cooper was “among the very smartest and the very most conservative” lawyers in the Reagan Justice Department.

“What distinguished him was not that he was different, but just that he was better, in terms of legal talents and commitment to principle,” Clegg told TPM.

At times, Cooper’s legal decisions prompted division and attracted controversy to the department.

He signed one memo that defended the government’s right to turn down job applicants on the basis of them having AIDS. Another brief he signed argued that the IRS did not have the legal authority to deny Bob Jones University a tax exemption due to its ban on interracial dating. The Supreme Court rejected Cooper’s position 8–1.

“The two of us didn’t always agree on legal outcomes,” Kmiec, who opposed Cooper’s position on the AIDS memo, said. “But I will say, when we disagreed, it was a disagreement with civility and he would match me toe-to-toe doing research for an opinion.”

More broadly, the Justice Department that Cooper served is remembered for weakening civil rights enforcement, fighting affirmative action programs and curtailing the power of consent decrees.

After the Reagan administration, Cooper kept himself firmly in private practice. He co-founded his own firm Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal in 1996. The firm evolved into Cooper & Kirk a few years later. Over the course of his private practice, Cooper has represented an assortment of high-profile clients.

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) listens to his attorney Charles Cooper (L) during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill July 17, 2008 in Washington, DC.

He counseled former attorney general John Ashcroft during an investigation into the so-called “torture memos” from former President George W. Bush’s administration; he led an unsuccessful defense of California’s same-sex marriage ban Proposition 8; he’s been a go-to outside attorney for the NRA in a number of big cases. Most recently, Cooper defended a Texas county’s bail system that courts have found to be discriminatory towards poor people.

“He’s very much, certainly since leaving DOJ, has been the go-to legal warrior for the far-right,” said Elliot Mincberg, a fellow for the progressive group People for the American Way. “It’s hard to think of major cases and issues that he hasn’t had some involvement in one way or another in his career.”

Cooper’s firm has also served as a launching pad for a number of conservative legal stars. In addition to Cruz, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) worked there, as did Rachel Brand, who recently stepped down as assistant attorney general, the third-ranking post in the department. Jesse Panuccio, who is serving as acting assistant attorney general after Brand’s departure, is also a Cooper & Kirk alumnus.

The sword Senator Cruz received while working for Chuck Cooper’s law firm.

“You could argue that all roads lead to Chuck when it comes to the conservative legal movement,” David Lat, founder of the legal blog Above The Law, told TPM.

Cooper’s firm gives its lawyers cuff links with its logo, a laurel and a sword, for its motto “victory or death.” Associates have also been given actual swords. Cotton, who called Cooper “one of the best lawyers of his generation,” confirmed to TPM that he still has his sword, while Cruz’s sword is displayed in his Senate office.

“People were attracted to the firm, they were inspired by Chuck, first and foremost,” Derek Shaffer, a former Cooper & Kirk attorney who started there in 2001 and eventually rose to partner, told TPM. “Chuck did build this remarkable firm that handled these very high profile intellectually interesting important cases.”

“At the end of the day, the risk-reward on this isn’t working”

It is not a coincidence that some of Cooper’s proteges ended up working for the Trump administration. While Cooper prepared Sessions for his confirmation hearing, they also discussed who should lead his Department of Justice. Cooper was involved not only when it came to the selection of his own former colleagues; he was also with Sessions when the latter interviewed Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who now oversees the Mueller investigation.

Rosenstein has become a common target of Trump and his allies. The antipathy toward him has gotten so intense that a political group has launched an ad campaign accusing him of being a “a weak careerist” who was “protecting liberal Obama holdovers and the deep state, instead of following the rule of law.”

Cooper did not know Rosenstein, then a U.S. attorney in Maryland, before the interview. “The fact that he had served for eight years in the Obama administration as a U.S. attorney was a question, I wanted to hear how he could explain that,” Cooper said. “He did, certainly to my satisfaction.”

He called Rosenstein “a man who truly loves public service, who truly loved being a prosecutor.”

When asked by TPM about Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department, however, Cooper declined to comment.

Cooper’s conversations with Sessions about the shape Trump’s Justice Department would take also included the possibility that Cooper would become solicitor general.

As much as Cooper has enjoyed private firm life — which has allowed him to work extensively from Florida, where he has a second home — he called the DOJ position the “only job better” than his current one.

His name was on the reported shortlist — along with George Conway, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s husband. But Cooper said that “there were powerful forces in the White House who had different candidates.” He told TPM that he had not even started the vetting process within the White House when he pulled his name from consideration.

“After seeing what Jeff went through and knowing that the support I’d get — I would not have the benefit, as I did once, of a White House machine in all likelihood caring a lot about me, having come out of the campaign, out of the Cruz campaign tradition — it just seemed to me, look, this is not something that — at the end of the day, the risk-reward on this isn’t working,” Cooper told TPM.

His move surprised outside observers, and some speculated that a Rachel Maddow segment on Feb. 8, 2017 — where she ran him over the coals for the AIDS memo and Bob Jones brief — played a role in his decision, which Cooper announced the following day.

Screencaps taken from Maddow’s Feb. 8, 2017 show on MSNBC.com. Maddow begins to discuss Cooper at the 8:55 mark.

Cooper told TPM that he had already decided to withdraw, but that the Maddow segment prompted him to announce it more quickly than he would have preferred, given that Sessions himself had just been sworn in.

“I didn’t want Rachel Maddow night two or Washington Post editorial or a New York Times editorial and the rest of basically the organized attack on the next bad idea from the Trump administration to start taking root,” he said. “Don’t think for a minute that I wasn’t fully aware that if I had gone through with this that I would have been a regular feature on Maddow’s show.”

The job ultimately went to Noel Francisco, who, it so happens, was also the second associate Cooper ever hired at his firm.

Cooper said that his decision to turn down the DOJ job came down to a calculation of “known costs” and “unknown costs.”

“I was willing to pay the known costs,” he said, which included the tough confirmation process, the media scrutiny and the family sacrifices. But Cooper said that the political antagonism has risen to “a different and new level.”

“I could foresee the organized challenge to me that had just failed to stop Jeff,” he said. “But some things you can’t foresee. Did Rod Rosenstein foresee that he’d be a subject of an advertising campaign that he has now been the subject of? That’s an unknown.”

 

Corrected: A previous version of this story misspelled Ted Olson’s name.

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Today was definitely a quieter day in the Kobach voting rights trial. Fewer members of the public showed up to watch.

The ACLU, which is representing some of the plaintiffs, plans to screen a video of Kris Kobach being deposed. That screening was initially expected today, but has been pushed back to tomorrow. There has been a lot of anticipation around this video, particularly because Kobach’s team has tried repeatedly to block it from being played. In the deposition, Kobach discusses draft proposals he presented to the Trump transition team for weakening the voter-protection law at the heart of this case, the National Voter Registration Act.

Kobach’s legal team’s bumbling emerged as today’s major theme. I wrote about a few of the instances in which the judge lectured them about proper trial procedure.

But those weren’t the only problems. There were other occasions where the trial was delayed because his legal team needed to find a document or work through a procedural issue. It’s definitely looking like this trial is going to bleed into next week.

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KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — As Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach defends his state’s proof-of-citizenship voter registration law in court, his team is having some issues following trial procedure.

On multiple occasions, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has interrupted questioning to walk Kobach and his crew of lawyers through the intricacies of moves such as admitting evidence and asking witnesses about previous depositions. Robinson, an appointee of President George W. Bush, has even instructed Kansas’ attorneys on the correct ways to phrase their questions.

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The Kobach v. Fish trial, in which the ACLU and other plaintiffs are challenging the state’s proof-of-citizenship voter-registration requirement, got underway today, and I am here in Kansas City, Kansas covering it. I’ve been writing a live blog of the opening day of the trial here.

The case is being closely watched across the country: If the requirement is allowed to stand, it could open the door for other states to enforce their own proof-of-citizenship laws, and pave the way for states to seek other ways to undermine the National Voter Registration Act, which the challengers say Kansas is violating.

A few employees at the federal courthouse told me that having such a nationally watched trial at their courthouse was a new experience for them. To their credit, they’ve done a lot to make the trial accessible to reporters — particularly compared to the obstacles reporters face at other courthouses. The judge in the case, Julie A. Robinson, also explicitly gave the reporters who were covering it from a media overflow room permission to file stories or tweet as the trial was ongoing. It’s often difficult for journalists to provide readers with live coverage of major trials — some courthouse bar electronics entirely from their premises — but reporters covering this case were allowed to bring their phones and laptops (though not into the actual courtroom).

The courtroom was packed when the trial opened Tuesday morning, and a couple dozen public observers ended up in the overflow room with some of the reporters. Most of them left after lunch, but during the morning, they were a somewhat rowdy crew: laughing, sighing loudly or gasping depending on what was going on in the courtroom. (There is a TV set in the overflow room that shows the trial.)

Things got a little quieter as the public crowd dwindled in the afternoon.

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Note: This live-blog is now over

Welcome to TPM’s live-blog of the Kris Kobach voting rights trial.

TPM reporter Tierney Sneed, who anchors our voting rights coverage, is in Kansas City, Kansas, where a federal judge is hearing Fish v. Kobach, a challenge to the state’s controversial voting law.

The law requires people registering to vote to show documentary proof that they’re a U.S. citizen. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also ran President Trump’s short-lived voter fraud commission, claims the proof-of-citizenship requirement is needed to stop non-citizens from voting. The ACLU, which is challenging the law, says the rate of non-citizen voting is tiny, and that the requirement violates federal voting law by making it too difficult to register, especially for racial minorities. The outcome could have national implications. 

The trial will last at least through the end of the week, and Tierney will be on the scene throughout. We’ll be updating this page with the latest news multiple times per day, and you can find Tierney’s longer-form coverage of the trial on the main site. You can also follow her on Twitter at @Tierney_Megan.

3/13, 1:09 p.m. CT: ACLU scrutinizes Kobach witness’ methodology:

This afternoon, as ACLU attorney Dale Ho continued his scrutiny of the research methods employed by Jesse Richman in a report alleging statistically significant rates of non-citizen voter registration in Kansas, Ho turned attention to Richman’s methodology in one of his analyses.

Specifically, Ho asked Richman about his effort to code respondents who had “foreign”-sounding names for weighting purposes in his survey. Ho played video from Richman’s previous deposition in which Richman said that the process was “very subjective” and that he was sure he made mistakes.

After going over some of the names Richman coded as foreign — two respondents with the last name Lopez were coded as foreign, and three Lopezes were not — Ho asked Richman how he would code the name “Carlos Murguia.” Richman said he’d probably code the name as “foreign.” Ho pointed out that Murguia is a federal judge in the same courthouse in which the trial is taking place. Richman admitted he wasn’t aware of that.

The rest of Ho’s line of questioning appeared to be designed to show just how subjective Richman’s approach was.

3/13, 12:13 p.m. CT: Headed home:

3/13, 10:59 a.m. CT: ACLU exposes key flaw in Kobach witness’s report: The ACLU is cross-examining Jesse Richman, a political science professor who produced a report for Kobach alleging a statistically significant rate of non-citizens attempting to register to vote in Kansas. ACLU attorney Dale Ho asked Richman about one of his analyses: his matching of certain voter files and the “TDL” list, which documents non-citizens who have obtained temporary visas or temporary driver licenses. Ho asked Richman if there was a way to know if the matches indicated that someone was a non-citizen when he or she sought to register to vote. Richman conceded that it was “possible” a person on the TDL list became a citizen before registering. Pressed further by Ho, Richman said he had made a request to get DHS for data to verify his match list, but that request was not fulfilled for his report.

3/12, 4:53 p.m. CT: About that decision by Kobach to represent himself:

3/12, 4:28 p.m. CT: Judge Tears Into Kobach Witness – Judge Julie Robinson repeatedly chastised an expert witness called to the stand by Kobach for interrupting her and the other counsel.

“No, Dr. Richman, I’m done,” Robinson said, voiced raised, when Jesse Richman, a professor at Old Dominion, kept speaking after she had told him he had sufficiently answered her question.

Robinson’s scolding came during a procedural tussle between Kobach and ACLU attorney Dale Ho. Ho had objected to some numbers in a slideshow Kobach was showing during Richmann’s testimony, because Ho said they weren’t in Richman’s report.

“The claim that it wasn’t there is ridiculous,” Richman said, even after the judge upbraided him about interrupting. Then Robinson when off on him, warning him that he shouldn’t “say anything” unless asked a question.

“You’re not here to advocate, you’re not here to trash the advocate, you’re not here to argue with me,” she said.

3/12, 12:30 p.m. CT – ACLU brings up ‘racist’ founder Of Kobach expert’s think tank: A lot of the ACLU’s cross-examination of Steven Camarota focused on the methodology he used to produce his report defending Kansas’ law. The ACLU’s questioning suggested Camarota didn’t properly control for a variety of factors when comparing the trends in Kansas’ voter turnout and registrations rates to the trends in other states. Camarota argued that he didn’t need to for the purposes of his conclusions.

But the ACLU also attacked the think tank where Camarota is director of research. ACLU attorney Angela Lui showed him an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center calling John Tanton, a co-founder of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the “racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

Camarota had earlier balked when asked whether he was aware that Tanton was a founder of CIS.

“He certainly played a role in its founding,” Camarota finally conceded.

3/12, 10:32 a.m. CT – Kobach presents another “expert” witness:

3/12, 10:01 a.m. CT – Kobach accused of withholding evidence: The challengers in the case accused the Kansas Secretary of State of withholding evidence Monday.

At issue are records associated with the five or six Kansans who lacked proof of citizenship and therefore went through a hearing process to register to vote, as well as evidence of those who sought to use the process but didn’t ultimately register through a hearing.

The accusations came because Kansas last week said it would like to call an additional witness — Jo French, a 75-year-old woman, who was registered through the hearing process — to testify about the process, which Kansas offers for those who can’t obtain the required records. Kansas wanted to call her because a witness for the challengers talked at length about the hearing process, which Kansas said it didn’t expect.

In the hearing process, Kansans lacking the documents required under the proof of citizenship law fill out forms requesting a hearing so that they can prove their citizenship. The hearing is typically with the secretary, the lieutenant governor, and the attorney general or his designee.

The challengers were able to interview French before trial started Monday, and through the process discovered that there are records related to her going through the hearing process that they say should have been turned over during discovery. They said the records — including the forms and any other records presented as part of the hearing — bolstered their case in showing how burdensome the process actually was.

The judge seemed to agree that Kansas should have produced the records. Kobach admitted that they didn’t keep records of those who called his office inquiring about the hearing process but not ultimately going through it. There were records of five people formally requesting and going through the hearing. The circumstances around a sixth were a bit of a mystery, because that person filled out a form but may have not gone through the hearing — Kansas didn’t have the other records, either way.

The judge is allowing French to testify later today.

3/9, 1:50 p.m. CT – A leader of the campaign for strict voting laws takes the stand: Hans von Spakovsky is testifying now as Kobach’s first witness, with the schedule being adjusted (the ACLU still planning to play its video of the Kobach deposition at some point) so von Spakovsky can catch a flight tonight. A quirk of the new schedule is that he is testifying after Minnite, who testified about the meager number of voter frauds indictments — 40, for voters — that the George W. Bush Justice Department produced during its Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative. Von Spakovsky worked for the DOJ at the time the initiative was launched. Like Kobach, he has been a leader of the effort to stoke fear over voter fraud and build support for restrictive voting laws.

3/9, 12:57 p.m. CT – Expert discusses Kobach’s misleading statements on voter fraud: Most of the morning’s testimony was from Lorraine Minnite, a political scientist who is an expert on voter fraud (or really, the lack thereof). The ACLU’s questioning of her focused a lot on the spreadsheet Kobach presented of non-citizen registration attempts in Sedgwick County. But she also weighed in on some of the misleading public statements Kobach has made about voter fraud in the past. Specifically she spoke about a case where a court found no evidence of voter fraud, and yet Kobach continued to cite it in op-eds after the court’s findings.

3/9, 9:46 a.m. CT – Kansas admits different voters get different information: Becca Waldmen, an attorney for the ACLU challengers, has been pressing Kobach’s elections director, Bryan Caskey, on how voters who have registered to vote via the preliminary injunction that was imposed on the law have been treated by his office, versus those who were registered after showing proof of citizenship. Caskey tried to dodge her question at first, until the judge had to intervene to urge him to answer the question —whether the two groups of voters receive different information about voting from the SoS office —directly.

“It is not the same information,” Caskey admitted.

3/9, 9:26 a.m. CT – Judge still explaining procedure to Kobach team: Tempers were a little cooler as we started trial Friday, but we’re still beginning with a procedural hiccup. Kansas attorney Garrett Roe sought to present pieces of the challenged law’s legislative history. He couldn’t at first explain whether he wanted the court to take judicial notice  a term for non-disputed facts that are typically in the public domain — or submit it as evidence.

The judge said she wouldn’t submit it as evidence, and she won’t take judicial notice until the opposing counsel had a chance to look at the legislative history documents.

3/8, 5:22 p.m. CT – Judge goes off on Kobach: Judge Julie Robinson has repeatedly had to instruct Kris Kobach’s legal team on the trial procedure. By Thursday afternoon, when Kobach’s lawyers tried to admit evidence she had previously blocked them from submitting, Robinson had had enough.

The proposed evidence was the number of suspended voters, a number Kobach’s team says in dynamic. They had blown a deadline previously when they tried to submit it on Monday. But that didn’t stop Kobach’s team from trying to introduce the new numbers while attorney Garrett Roe was questioning Bryan Caskey, an elections official in the secretary of state’s office.

“When do we close the door, Mr. Kobach?” Robinson said, her voice raised. “The bottom line, you have to cut off the evidence at some point.”

Kansas needed to stick to the evidence it had provided to the opposing counsel by the deadline, Robinson said.

“That’s not fair,” Robinson added, about introducing new numbers in the midst of a trial. “That’s ambush.”

Kobach himself tried to make the case for entering the numbers. But Robinson didn’t want to hear it.

“No, no that’s not how trials are conducted,” she lectured Kobach. She noted that for two years while the case was being litigated, Kobach’s never sought to update the initial numbers, until the eve of the trial.

Then Sue Becker, another lawyer for Kansas, took a turn to try to defend introducing the numbers.

“No, let me finish,” Robinson said.

3/8, 2:20 p.m. CT – Kobach official denies Kansas form aims to scare voters: The challengers’ lawyers are questioning Bryan Caskey, Kris Kobach’s director of elections, about the form Kansans must fill out if they don’t have proof of citizenship documents and are seeking a hearing with the Board of Elections to explain their circumstance.

Caskey was asked about language on the form that asks for the person’s signature to swear that they don’t possess the forms. Perjury would be a felony, the form says.

“We’re definitely not scaring anyone, we are providing information,” Caskey said.

The lawyer for the challengers asked what the form means for a person who isn’t sure if they posses the documents, or can’t find them.

“I’m not going to get in the mindset of someone else” filling out this form, Caskey said.

3/8, 2:10 p.m. CT – Challengers: Kansas website confuses voters: Testimony from the Sedgwick County election commissioner, Tabitha Lehman, dominated Thursday morning. Making up much of her testimony was discussion of a spreadsheet assembled by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office purporting to show non-citizens who registered to vote or attempted to vote in Sedgwick County, the second largest county in the state. Mark Johnson, a lawyer for some of the challengers, got Lehman to admit that wording on the Secretary of State’s website was confusing. The website, according to Johnson, says that people whose voter registrations are incomplete due to lack of citizenship documents have until the night before an election to submit the required documents to be registered in time. In fact, as Lehman acknowledged in her testimony, those with incomplete registrations are put on what is called the suspense list and have their registrations canceled after 90 days if they don’t submit the required documents.

3/8, 10:25 a.m. CT – After a struggle, Kobach’s non-citizen voting spreadsheet is included – Another day in the trial over Kris Kobach’s controversial voting law begins with a procedural tussle.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Kansas Secretary of State has a summary of the alleged non-citizens who registered to vote, which he wanted to submit as evidence. It was going to be used for cross-examining a county clerk that the ACLU has called as a witness, aiming to show the flaws in Kobach’s investigation into non-citizen voters.

But yesterday, Judge Julie Robinson blocked Kobach from using the summary, at least temporarily, because the challengers hadn’t seen all the underlying data. The questioning related to the summary, which is in the form of a spreadsheet, was pushed off to Thursday.

The procedural squabble that would then ensue seems silly, but there’s a reason there’s so much bickering over the spreadsheet. Kobach, as part of the test that an appeals court imposed on the case, has to show that non-citizens registering to vote is a “substantial” problem. He thinks this spreadsheet — said to show 38 examples of non-citizens registering or attempting to register — will help his case. (I’ve seen earlier versions of the spreadsheet, but not the most recent he’s presenting in trial). The challengers will aim to poke holes in the claims, and show where they say Kobach is exaggerating the rate of non-citizen voter registration.

Today, the wrangling continued as the challengers sought to permanently block admission of the summary on the grounds that it was hearsay. In response, Judge Robinson excluded the parts of the summary that came from statements given by people not in the Secretary of State’s office — for example, notes about a conversation with a non-citizen who had registered, deeming them hearsay. But she allowed Kobach to include the information deducible from the Secretary of State’s records.

This is where it got even more confusing. ACLU lawyers then objected to the judge’s decision to exclude parts of the summary. They argued that if the spreadsheet was going to be entered, they wanted those sections available to them for questioning the clerk. They said the information the judge was seeking to redact would help them show the mistakes made in Kobach’s investigation. They withdrew their original objection to the spreadsheet. As a result, and after all that hullabaloo, the spreadsheet was entered unredacted.

So count that as a small win for Kobach — though we can expect the ACLU to try to raise significant doubts about its claims.

3/8, 8:54 a.m. CT – Kobach reportedly bringing armed escort to court today: He had asked about it, yesterday, citing potential threats.

3/7, 6:39 p.m. CT – A few stray observations from day two: Some final thoughts for today are available in this reporter’s notebook post (Prime access).

3/7, 4:32 p.m. CT – Judge again rejects evidence from Kobach: Just after I finished my story about the issues Kobach’s legal team has had in following trial procedure, Judge Robinson blocked yet another piece of evidence they were trying to admit. It was a spreadsheet summarizing voter registration data, and challengers objected to its admission because they hadn’t seen all the underlying data.

“This is an overnight project for everybody,” Robinson said, instructing Kobach’s team to show the voter files they had not seen.

3/7, 10:40 a.m. CT – League of Women Voters: Kobach requirement ‘totally drained our resources’ for registration: Marge Ahrens, a leader of the Kansas League of Women Voters, testified on how the proof of citizenship law affected her group’s voter registration drives. Before the requirement, Ahrens said, it would usually take the group about three or four minutes to register a new voter. But after it was implemented, it took on average an hour. One local league saw its registrations drop 90 percent after the requirement went into effect, Ahrens said.

“It drained us,” Ahrens said. “It totally drained our resources”

3/7, 10:12 a.m. CT – Kansas: ACLU trying to ‘generate publicity’ by playing Kobach deposition video: Thursday’s trial day started with a bit of fireworks. Sue Becker, an attorney for Kansas, tried to convince Judge Robinson not to play video of a Kris Kobach deposition about his draft voting law proposal, which he presented to the incoming Trump administration.

In the deposition, Kobach is questioned by ACLU lawyers about his proposal, which would amend the National Voter Registration Act to allow states to ask for proof of citizenship from people registering to vote.

Becker argued that playing the video served no probative value, and said the deposition could be presented in other ways, including being read aloud. She said that Kansas had not been given by the challengers the edited version of the video they intended to play, and she complained that the 45-minute video was too long for their tight trial schedule.

Judge Robinson was skeptical. She said she’d prefer to have the video played live so she could make sure she was following correctly.

“If they read it aloud, it will be 45 minutes as well,” Robinson said about Becker’s concerns about the time it would take to play it.

Meanwhile, Orion Danjuma, an ACLU attorney, argued that playing the video would allow the judge to assess Kobach’s credibility and demeanor.

Becker stepped up her objections. She said that Dale Ho, the ACLU’s lead attorney on the case, had tweeted his intentions with the video. Becker said Ho claimed in the tweet that the video would show Kobach’s “grand conspiracy” to make it harder to vote.

Becker appears to be referring to a video tweeted Tuesday by the ACLU account of Ho summarizing Tuesday’s trial day and previewing Wednesday. The Kobach deposition video, Ho said, “will really shine a light on, really, what is a nationwide plan here to make voting harder.”

Playing the deposition video was intended “solely to generate publicity,” Becker argued, adding that the judge could assess Kobach’s credibility and demeanor by his presence at the trial as Kansas’ lead attorney.

Danjuma, in his response, accused Becker of mischaracterizing Ho’s statement, and said that Kobach could testify as a witness if he wanted to. Becker said that there were “ethical” issues with Kobach testifying as a witness since he was also Kansas’ lead attorney in the case. Asked by Robinson if Kobach planned to testify live about the proposals, Becker said no.

Robinson said she had already ruled to include the video, but that the ACLU would not be able to play it tomorrow, to give Kansas time to watch the 45 minuted edited version.

3/7, 8:47 a.m. CT – Report: Kobach asks about bringing gun to courthouse, told no: This from Kansas City Star reporter Bryan Lowry is interesting…

3/7, 8:45 a.m. CT – Day two kicking off: Good morning from the Robert J. Dole courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas. Today we’re moving into day two of the trial over Kansas’ voter proof-of-citizenship law. The ACLU is expected to finish with its witnesses today. Then the other challengers in the case, represented by local attorney Mark Johnson, will lay out their own case. The challengers represented by the ACLU — led by Steven Wayne Fish — allege that the requirement is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), while the other challengers say the law violates the U.S. Constitution. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is defending the law.

At the end of Tuesday’s trial day, Judge Julie A. Robinson denied Kobach’s motion to exclude as evidence draft proposals he put together for then-President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team to weaken federal voting law. So I’ll be looking out for how the ACLU incorporates that — as well as a deposition Kobach gave about the proposals, which the judge said also could be included — into its arguments.

3/6, 6:10 p.m. CT – Judge rejects Kobach motion, rules proposal pictured in infamous Kobach-Trump photo is evidence: Tuesday afternoon, Judge Robinson ruled on a motion by Kansas to exclude evidence related to a proposal by Kobach to the incoming Trump administration to weaken a federal voting law at the heart of the current case.

You may recall the photograph taken at Bedminister of Kobach and then-President-elect Trump, in which Kobach was holding an outline of proposals. Well, before the trial, the ACLU successfully forced Kobach to turn over that proposal, as well as an email Kobach sent to a Trump transition official. From that, we learned that Kobach proposed to the Trump team that it try to have Congress amend the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) so that it would allow states to impose proof-of-citizenship requirements.

On Tuesday Judge Robinson ruled that the NVRA-related aspects of the proposals — as well as a deposition Kobach gave about them as they wrangled over turning them over  — could be admitted as evidence. She said the proposals bore on the ACLU’s claim that Kobach recognized that the current Kansas requirement didn’t meet the test an appeals court previously put forward about interpreting the NVRA.

As Judge Robinson summarized ACLU’s and Kobach’s arguments about whether the proposals should be included, Kobach shook his head in what appeared to be frustration or annoyance.

3/6, 2:55 p.m. CT – Kobach asks whether witness is biased against him: The ACLU’s next witness was Michael McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, and well-regarded elections number-cruncher.

McDonald has analyzed data and voter registration information handed over by the state of Kansas. He testified that the proof-of-citizenship requirement has a disproportionate effect on young people, and people not affiliated with a political party. To come to that conclusion, McDonald compared the rate of young people and unaffiliated people on the voter rolls with the rate of young people and unaffiliated people who attempted to register, via the Motor Voter Law process, and had those registrations canceled or suspended due to not fulfilling the requirement.

In his cross examination, Kobach started by questioning McDonald’s qualifications as an expert. Kobach read a number of tweets and asked McDonald if he was personally biased against Kobach.

3/6, 1:07 p.m. CT – ACLU presents two voters it says were disenfranchised: The first was Charles Stricker, a hotel manager who actually has the type of documents that under the Kansas requirement would have verified his citizenship. Stricker testified that when he went to the DMV to get a Kansas driver’s license in 2014, he did bring proof of citizenship. Stricker understood from the DMV clerk that he would be registered to vote, but when he showed up at his polling place, he was told he had not been, due to the requirement. The ACLU argues that the kind of bureaucratic snafus that appear to have disenfranchised Stricker are endemic to the law’s process, meaning even some voters who do have the proper documents are victims.

The second ACLU witness was Donna Bucci, who works in the kitchen of a corrections facility. When Bucci went to the DMV to renew her license, she attempted to register to vote but didn’t have the documents required under the law, according to her testimony. Bucci testified that she had lost her birth certificate at some point in her life, and that the cost to have it replaced — she was born in Maryland — would have been an issue for her.

In both testimonies, the cross examination by the state of Kansas focused on the other ways the witnesses could have, in theory, sought to comply with the law. The state’s lawyers also questioned whether they had tried hard to enough to provide the documents.

Kobach asked Stricker if he could have sent a photo of his passport from his phone to the elections office. Stricker said he did not typically send sensitive identity documents over the phone.

Susan Becker, representing Kansas, asked Bucci about the option the state offers to hold telephonic hearings with the secretary of state’s office to discuss her circumstances. Bucci said she wasn’t allowed to use her phone while she was at work at the prison and she would have had to run to a car to make such a call. She also said she would not have even known how to call the secretary of state’s office, nor did she know how long such a call would take.

3/6, 10:38 a.m. CT — “Taking a bazooka to a fly:” Opening statements kick off trial: After some motions were addressed, the Kansas voter registration proof-of-citizenship trial began in earnest with opening statements Tuesday morning.

The ACLU’s Dale Ho, an attorney for the plaintiffs, was first at the lectern. He laid out the three-pronged argument that the challengers he is representing are making: That the proof-of-citizenship requirement disenfranchises eligible voters, that there is no evidence of a systemic issue of mass non-citizen voting, and that there are other ways that Kansas can keep its voter rolls clean.

Enforcing this law, Ho said, is like “taking a bazooka to a fly.”

Mark Johnson, a Kansas-based attorney representing another group of challengers in the case, was the next up. He is challenging the requirement on a constitutional basis. (The ACLU, meanwhile, is arguing that it violates the National Voter Registration Act).

He compared Kansas’ law to the legislation statehouses pass banning flag burning, which, he said, play well politically but are quickly shot down by courts as unconstitutional.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, was the last attorney to make an opening statement. He argued that the threat of non-citizen voting was significant, and that the state had discovered even more instances of non-citizens registering since it implemented the requirement.

“We know that the iceberg is much larger,” he said. He argued that the other ways suggested for Kansas to address the problem of non-citizens registering were not sufficient, and Kansans themselves did not find the requirement burdensome.

The trial is taking place in a federal courtroom in Kansas City. The courtroom was packed with public observers, and the overflow room had a couple dozen more observers in addition to the media covering the case.

3/6, 9:45 a.m. CT — A setback for Kobach right off the bat: Before the parties in the Kansas case could even make their opening statements, Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a setback. Judge Julie Robinson barred Kobach from submitting an exhibit showing the latest numbers of Kansans whose voter registrations have been suspended or canceled due to the proof-of-citizenship requirement that’s on trial this week.

The ACLU objected to the submission exhibit, because Kobach only turned over the latest numbers at 10:43 p.m. last night. Judge Robinson had set a deadline for such exhibits to be turned over to the opposing party of at least 24 hours before the trial started.

ACLU attorney Dale Ho also raised concerns that the challengers were unable to verify the numbers with the underlying data.

Kobach argued that there was no workable way for the challengers to have access to the underlying data to verify the numbers. They come from the state’s (ELVIS) Election.Voter Information System, which Bryan Caskey, a state elections official has a security clearance to have access to. (Caskey will testify later in the trial). Kobach noted that the security issues around the voter registration database have recently been in the news. (Ironically, Kobach’s effort to have states turn over their voter registration to the President’s now-defunct voter fraud commission created many of those headlines).

Regardless, Robinson is not allowing the defendants to submit the new numbers, because they violated the 24-hour deadline.

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As I mentioned in last week’s sum-up, former Attorney General Eric Holder is leading a group focused on redistricting issues on the state legislative level. The group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, last week filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s refusal to hold special elections in two state legislative districts.

As my colleague Allegra Kirkland detailed, Walker’s move is part of a larger trend: Republican officials around the country are putting off holding special elections for legislative seats that were previously held by Republicans. Walker’s office is justifying his decision by saying it’s about saving taxpayer money, but it comes after a Democrat won a special election for a reliably red state Senate seat in December. There will be a hearing on the Dem lawsuit later this month.

Republicans in Alabama — where a special election last year handed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat to Democrat Doug Jones — are taking the tactic to the next level, by pushing legislation that would eliminate special elections altogether in certain circumstances. On Thursday, the state’s GOP-dominated Senate passed a bill that would end special elections for legislative vacancies where two years or less remain in the term.

Litigation continues in Pennsylvania over GOP-drawn U.S. congressional maps that the state Supreme Court recently threw out. Pennsylvania Republicans have again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in, and Justice Samuel Alito is calling for responses from the other participants in the case by Monday afternoon to the GOP request that the Supreme Court intervene to preserve the old map. Alito had rejected a previous request by state Republicans to get involved in their case, and in that instance Alito also called for responses to their request before rejecting it.

On the flip side, there have been a number of recent moves in state legislatures to expand voting rights. Washington’s legislature passed a bill last week aiming to make it easier for communities to establish districts that better represent minority groups. New Jersey Democrats last week introduced a bill that would give voting rights to prisoners and those on probation or parole. And California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Wednesday that pre-registers to vote 16 and 17 year olds when they obtain their drivers licenses or a state ID card.

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Next week, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will go to federal court to defend a voting restriction that he has for years tried to implement in his state.

To help Kobach make his case, he’ll be calling on a former member of his now-defunct voter fraud commission, an anti-immigration hardliner, and a professor whose controversial study was used by the White House to justify President Trump’s false claim that “millions” voted illegally in 2016.

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From the way that Democratic state election officials have rushed to praise a federal elections agency commissioner who is being passed over for another term, you wouldn’t know that the commissioner originally was a Republican appointee.

But Speaker Paul Ryan’s apparent decision not to extend Matt Masterson’s tenure at the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has been met with disappointment and outright anxiety from state election officials who worked with Masterson on a regular basis.

Masterson’s likely departure comes at a time when issues of cyber-security — issues that Masterson has made a focus of his work — are emerging as a top priority for the commission.

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With the 2018 primaries looming, the ongoing court battles over voting district maps in Pennsylvania and North Carolina continue to chug along.

In North Carolina, civil rights groups on Wednesday filed a new lawsuit in state court challenging the state House map in Wake county, which has four state House districts. The Supreme Court previously sided with Republicans in halting the implementation of a new map, drawn by court-appointed expert Nate Persily, in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. Voting rights advocates are now turning to state courts to request that Persily’s map be used in the 2018 election. The latest lawsuit comes after a state court rejected an effort — part of a separate lawsuit — to implement the Persily map. The new lawsuit alleges that lawmakers violated the state constitution by redrawing the districts in Wake mid-decade without a court order requiring them to do so. Typically districts are drawn every 10 years.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans last week turned to the Supreme Court yet again, their latest attempt to preserve a map that is gerrymandered in their favor through the 2018 election. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito already once rejected the GOP lawmakers’ request to intervene in their state’s redistricting battle, in which the state Supreme Court said Pennsylvania’s congressional map violated the state constitution and must be redrawn. The state GOP’s latest request to the U.S. Supreme Court, filed Wednesday evening, comes after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) rejected a replacement map that Republicans had proposed, and after the court sought to adopt a map drawn by Persily (the court appointed expert here too) instead.

Beyond these incremental developments, there are a couple of long-term trends I am keeping my eye on. First: Concerns that the 2020 census will be used to tilt the next decade’s maps in Republicans’ favor. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder penned an op-ed in The New Republic highlighting those concerns. He’s leading a group that more broadly is focused on drawing fairer maps in the next decade.

My colleague, Allegra Kirkland, meanwhile reported on a push by Republicans in Arizona to overhaul the independent commission that draws that state’s districts — a system that has been widely praised. The overhaul — which critics say would allow Republicans to inject more partisanship on the commission — will be a state ballot initiative if the GOP-dominated state legislature approves of it.

Finally, The Nation shed some light on another tactic that Republicans have been using in recent months: refusing to hold special elections for vacancies where Democrats have a good chance of winning seats that were previously held by Republicans.

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