When a federal lawsuit challenging Kansas’s proof of citizenship voter law goes to trial in March, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach plans to be in the courtroom. He’ll be the attorney defending the law he crafted. Rarely, if ever, do statewide elected officials represent themselves at trial. The unusual situation is made possible by Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Kobach, who is being sued in his official capacity as secretary of state, received permission from Schmidt to represent himself at the trial-court level in the lawsuit after he agreed that the secretary of state’s office will pay for all costs of the case, Schmidt’s office said.
Kobach said his self-representation saves tax dollars. The attorney general’s office likely would also have to hire outside attorneys because it doesn’t have experts on election law, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs, he said.
“The advantage is the state gets an experienced appellate litigator who is a specialist in this field and in constitutional law for the cost the state is already paying, which is my salary,” Kobach said.
At stake in the trial: a 2011 law that requires people to provide documentary proof they’re a citizen, often through a passport or birth certificate, when they register to vote. Kobach says the law keeps non-citizens from voting. But critics say voter fraud is relatively rare and the requirement makes it more difficult for citizens to vote.