t’s hard to imagine how Kris Kobach could have screwed things up so badly. Here is a man who has pledged the better part of his legal career to ensuring that fewer people can voteand to treating any and all immigrants—documented or otherwise—like criminals. Here is a man, in short, who had a meeting with destiny. As Kobach put it to Ari Berman last month, his whole master plan for world dominion was so simple: to create in Kansas—where he is running for governor and has been secretary of state for a number of years—a template for programmatic vote suppression nationwide. If he created “the absolute best legal framework,” other states and the federal government would follow. Somehow, though, Trump’s “election integrity” commission turned into one of the most colossal cockups in an administration already overflowing with them.
Less than two weeks after its attempts to extract voter information from every state, including birth dates, voting histories, and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, the commission has been stymied by varying degrees of resistance in almost every state. In addition, lawsuits have ground the commission’s work to a halt. One filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and another by the American Civil Liberties Union alleged violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires notice of public meetings and open public records surrounding such a federal commission. Yet another by the Electronic Privacy Information Center sought a restraining order and alleged that the panel had violated the 2002 E-Government Act by not undertaking a required privacy impact assessment of its request.
Things came to a head on Monday when Andrew Kossack, the panel’s designated officer, formally told the states to basically stop doing what 44 of them were already refusing to do anyhow. Kossack advised state elections officials that “until the Judge rules on the [Temporary Restraining Order], we request that you hold on submitting any data.”