The postelection legal battle between Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and a legislative critic resolved little, but it provided another example of how disputes involving Kobach often can pivot to questions about his motives. Kobach intervened as Democratic state Rep. Ann Mah of Topeka sought the names of voters who cast provisional ballots in her close re-election race. Mah and her supporters saw an opportunity to avert a narrow loss by contacting the voters and helping them address problems so that county officials would count their ballots. The Republican secretary of state advised county election officials statewide not to release voter names. When that didn’t prevent Mah from getting lists, he pushed the dispute into federal court to block Mah and her GOP challenger from contacting voters. He didn’t prevail, but the long-term effects aren’t clear.
Kobach said he pursued the issue so aggressively because federal and state laws require election officials to protect the privacy of individual voters. Even after a federal judge rejected Kobach’s interpretation of federal law, the secretaries of state stuck to his position and Democrats were blocked from receiving names of provisional voters in at least two other races.
“The protection of the privacy of every voter is an important principle,” Kobach said. “It doesn’t matter which race it is.”
Mah, who has a history of sparring with Kobach in public, quickly shifted the focus to the attorney general’s motives.
Kobach’s office sent two memos to county election officials after Mah began asking about obtaining provisional voters’ names. Also, a political action committee he formed was involved in Mah’s race against GOP challenger, Ken Corbet of Topeka, who eventually won by 21 votes out of nearly 10,800 cast.