The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a citizen-initiated grand jury must be convened for the purpose of investigating allegations that Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office mishandled voter registration information during the 2016 election.
“Grand jury to investigate Kobach, Kansas Supreme Court affirms”
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) September 1, 2018
In a one-page order signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, the court denied a request from Kobach’s lawyers to review a Kansas Court of Appeals decision in June which held that Steven Davis had met the legal requirement for circulating petitions to summon a grand jury.
The Supreme Court did not provide any further explanation of its decision. Davis is a resident of Lawrence, which is in Douglas County, where the grand jury will be summoned.
Davis ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas House of Representatives in both the 2016 and 2018 Democratic primaries. After the 2016 elections he circulated petitions calling for a grand jury to be convened to investigate Kobach. He claimed that the GOP gubernatorial candidate had engaged in “destroying, obstructing, or failing to deliver online voter registration,” as well as possessing falsely made or altered registration books, preventing qualified electors from voting, and “being grossly neglectful with respect to their election duties.”
Kobach has denied the allegations, saying they relate to a short period of time in 2016 when certain online voter registration systems were malfunctioning and that those problems have since been resolved. He says that the allegations are politically motivated.
Douglas County Judge Peggy Kittel had at first dismissed Davis’ petition. She said that he had not made allegations that were specific enough to demonstrate that crimes had been committed.
But in June, a three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed that decision, saying Kansas statutes only require general allegations that, if proven to be true, would constitute crimes.
While the case was pending at the Court of Appeals, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office withdrew from the case.
After the Court of Appeals ruling, Kobach requested that the Kansas Supreme Court review the claims, and he filed a formal motion for the court to intervene. In the motion he said that he had not been adequately represented in the Court of Appeals case.
On Friday the Kansas Supreme Court turned down the request from Kobach to review the matter, and also denied Kobach’s motion to intervene as moot.
A spokeswoman for the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration said the grand jury will have to be summoned as soon as the Court of Appeals issues a “final mandate” in the case. It was not immediately clear how long the appellate court has to do that, or when it will happen. Kansas is one of only six states that allow grand juries to be initiated through citizen request.
Kobach is in a close race for governor, and a new poll shows his Democratic challenger Laura Kelly has pulled even with him.
“A new poll by Public Polling Policy shows this race is a dead heat! We can win and stop Kris Kobach but we can’t do it without your support. Join this campaign and chip in to #StopKobach”
A new poll by Public Polling Policy shows this race is a dead heat! We can win and stop Kris Kobach but we can't do it without your support. Join this campaign and chip in to #StopKobach #ksleg #ksgov –> https://t.co/SlAo16RfwH pic.twitter.com/N9mrCMX6Ks
— Laura Kelly (@SenatorKelly) August 30, 2018
Kobach also had previously been appointed by President Trump to head a so-called Voter Integrity Commission charged with investigating voter fraud during the 2016 election cycle. Trump shut down the commission in January after it became clear that there was no widespread voter fraud, as Trump and Kobach had claimed.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.