The essential voting rights of Americans are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and multiple laws across the land. But all of this means little to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and other Republicans who want to trample on those rights and keep legal immigrants, poor people and others out of the voting booth. Because laws can be changed. The Constitution can be skirted. New rules can be imposed from on high when like-minded people are in the right place. Which brings us to Brian Newby, the recently departed leader of the Johnson County Election Office. Late last year he accepted the job as the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a nonpartisan office that’s supposed to help make voting more accessible and promote good election practices throughout the country. Shortly after taking that work, Newby abruptly decided that people in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia could not register to vote by using a national form — one that doesn’t require providing proof of U.S. citizenship.
Fortunately, furious legal action has been taken to overturn his decision. All this sounds so … familiar. An election official making it harder to vote, not easier? An election official getting sued by respectable, long-standing organizations such as the League of Women Voters? Yes, this is where we pick up the scent of Kobach’s involvement in all this. Just who helped Newby get his new gig?
The Associated Press laid out that troublesome scenario late this week, using emails gathered through open records requests plus other sources. Kobach said in an interview that he had told one of Newby’s potential Republican bosses on the commission that he “would be excellent and he was one of Kansas’ most talented county election officers….”
And Newby acknowledged in an email to Kobach that his support had helped him in the job search, adding that he would be saying “repeated prayers of thanksgiving for that.” This kind of mutual back-slapping goes on all the time in politics and the private-sector world, so what’s the harm? Here it is. Take a look at the email Newby sent in June to Kobach: “I think I would enter the job empowered to lead the way I want to.”