Trump Empowering Kris Kobach to Suppress More Votes and Cover His Tweets

New Orleans   President Trump named five people to a special election commission to supposedly review federal election procedures. Vice-President Pence is the titular chair. There will be more than a dozen members and the bipartisan claim arises from four active and former Secretary of State, two Democrats from Maine and New Hampshire and a current Republican Secretary of State from Indiana. Disturbingly, he appointed the notorious former Republican Secretary of State from Ohio, Ken Blackwell, who became infamous in the 2008 election when Ohio was a key battleground state then for his ham-handed efforts at voter suppression.

None of this would be that worrisome, if we were able to see this commission as simply a DC-boondoggle of a snipe hunt looking for evidence wherever they can find it to provide cover for Trump’s post-election tweets and continuing efforts to claim he really didn’t lose the vote total by millions because there were all of these undocumented illegals voting. Unable to find any proof of these claims or to convince the FBI or Justice Department to join the ghost hunt, this commission is his smoke bomb to cover his claims. We could almost live with this except for the fact that he has appointed Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State, author of countless pieces of immigrant bashing, and master of voter suppression in Kansas and nationally. It was small comfort that despite Kobach’s post-election Trump Tower meetings with Trump as president-elect, cooler heads prevailed preventing him from taking a faster train than this one to Washington.

Kobach is a danger to democracy, plain and simple. His previous efforts to reshape the national voting system had to be scrapped for clear racial bias. I have often cited his initial election campaign claims that he was running to stop ACORN from stealing the election in Kansas, despite the fact that we didn’t have any staff, office, or operation in the state. He started bad, but he keeps getting worse.

Of huge concern for this fake-fact finding commission will be Kobach’s claims for more voter identification systems based on his Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program, now enjoying the participation of thirty states, most of them Republican, which supposedly finds duplicate registrations. Most experts defame Walt Disney by calling the program Mickey Mouse.

One report said that following about its methodology:

The program, for instance, appears to count every instance in which someone has moved out of a state, registered to vote in their new state, but has not yet been removed from the old voter rolls, a process that can take several election cycles to happen automatically.

And while the program asks member states to submit 13 items of data for each voter, including the last four digits of his/her social security number and middle name, Kansas state department officials acknowledged in an email that all that’s required for the crosscheck program to generate a “possible duplicate entry,” is for the last name, first name, and date of birth to match.

A Rolling Stone report from before the 2016 election was more specific:

We had Mark Swedlund, a database expert whose clients include eBay and American Express, look at the data from Georgia and Virginia, and he was shocked by Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He added, “God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name is Joseph or Jose. You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states.”

The reporter later underlined the issue, writing:

Every voter that the state marks as a legitimate match receives a postcard that is colorless and covered with minuscule text. The voter must verify his or her address and mail it back to their secretary of state. Fail to return the postcard and the process of taking your name off the voter rolls begins.

This commission has a fake mission to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and is likely to use a fake computer program that produces exaggerated and inaccurate data to provide high-level justification for the ongoing conservative political project of reducing the number of lower income, elderly, and minority voters in US elections.

Bad and sad!

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Interstate Crosscheck May Have Removed One-Million Legitimate Voters from Election

Al Jazeera's Greg Palast looks over the Crosscheck list, searching for these supposed double voters.

Al Jazeera’s Greg Palast looks over the Crosscheck list, searching for these supposed double voters.

New Orleans   There’s a saying in almost every language that the “devil is in the details.” There’s a lesson in that expression though, and it’s one we all need to learn more carefully about how to work the levers of intricate bureaucracies at every level of government in order to implement our programs.

The particularly infamous devil who is teaching these lessons about details includes the notorious and dangerous Secretary of State in Kansas, Kris Kobach, who we have seen recently in conference with President-Elect Trump on how to establish a registry for Muslims. Previously he has not only been in the thick of litigation to repress the human rights of immigrants, but the prime mover in voter identification and other efforts to block access to the ballot particularly for poor and minority voters. Kobach has long been on my radar, but I had still missed some of the incredible damage he wrought.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office was an early adopter of a small program around 2005 with four neighboring states participating: Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. The intention of the program, called Interstate Crosscheck, was to identify people who might have been voting in more than one state. Ray Thornburgh was the Secretary of State when the annual use of Interstate Crosscheck began, but its use exploded in recent years since Kobach took office as Kansas’ Secretary of State in 2011. According to his reports, the number ballooned up to 15 states in 2012, 22 in 2013, and 29 in 2014, and according to some reports 30 in 2016, all of whom were involved in a shared data dump and list purging annually. The roster of states in 2014 included many red states, but several important blue states as well. The 29 include Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Although ostensibly checking for duplicate voting, what may or may not have been realized fully in each state is that Interstate Crosscheck, according to investigative reporter Gary Palast, was removing hundreds of thousands of minority voters from the rolls. This was a brute tool which was unable to distinguish between common names in minority communities like Jose Sanchez or Joseph Johnson and so forth. Virginia was unique in reporting the number of voters it dropped using Interstate Crosscheck and the number was significant at 12.1% of the rolls, almost one of every eight registered voters. Nationally across the thirty states, seven million names were identified. If the Virginia data were replicated at the same percentage nationally among the participating thirty states as many as one million legitimate voters may have been disenfranchised.

Does this mean the election was stolen? No, because this was just one of many ways that millions of voters were disenfranchised across the country through various efforts to deny legitimate voters access to the ballot because of income, language, or information. Kobach and his crew are on to something. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can deny voters and tilt the even playing field of an election by sneaking in the back door, as surely as some of the more pronounced – and successfully challenged – legislative efforts can do that were more widely publicized.

We need to learn how to operate more successfully in the darkness of the little reported bureaucracy over coming years. We also need to look at this list of states and take action to disengage as many as possible from vote purging software apps like Interstate Crosscheck being manipulated by conservatives. Not easy perhaps, but certainly necessary on our “to do” list pretty darned quick.

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Individual Acts of Solidarity

US Census records were used to locate Japanese Americans for Internment Camps

US Census records were used to locate Japanese Americans for Internment Camps

New Orleans   Watching Kris Kobach, the uber-controversial Kansas Secretary of State who has been a one-man wrecking ban of voters rights, ballot access, and the human and legal rights of immigrants, walking hand in hand with President-elect Trump and giving him advice on how to set up a Muslim registry was another in a long list of scary moments in recent weeks, I don’t care how much sugar he put in the coffee of the crowd at the New York Times in his meet and greet. People all over the country are debating where to open their minds and where to take a stand. I’m a collective action guy, but as we all realize, enough individual actions put together are also collective actions.

Recently many of us saw an example of this on Facebook of all places. When it became clear that the sheriff in North Dakota was monitoring the Facebook check-ins to determine who and how many people were part of the Standing Rock Sioux anti-pipeline protests, people from all over the world registered that they were there in order to put a monkey wrench in the sheriff’s plans.

Earlier a common strategy for individual actions to thwart NSA snooping and mass government profiling, as revealed by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, was not only to be opaque on social media but to shuffle the deck widely on sites like LinkedIn. I have no idea how people really use LinkedIn to get a job, and having several, I’ve never worried about it. The simple strategy is to accept all requests to link. For me that means music promoters and rock acts, radio djs, organizers, publications people, random sales personnel, and even old friends. Let them figure that out. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a fool’s errand.

The other day I heard an interesting individual action strategy to protect undocumented immigrants. In cities where there is a municipal IDs that can be used for basic identification when lacking other documents, similar to how we used our ACORN membership cards for our waste pickers in India, many are now moving to ask for one. NYCID for example in the Big Apple is being flooded with non-immigrants in order to make it an unattractive target for Homeland Security, if it comes to that. Furthermore, in New York having such an ID gives the holder premiums and discounts in some places. This is Trump-city, so who would be surprised if business didn’t find a way to benefit.

I saw a posting the other day from a friend who said he was ready to sign onto the Muslim registry, if one was created by Kobach and the new gang. Might be hard to do that since it was pointed out to me that most of the touted registry is designed to nab you as you enter the country from foreign lands. I’m actually not sure, but in some countries, once again India is an example, applying for a visa demands you state your religious preference. Even if the United States is asking for that information, right now it’s protected as confidential, so presumably the Kobach’s on the right want to break down any kind of privacy walls that exist, just as they want to build other walls.

On the other hand if they are thinking about reinvigorating the same laws used to force Japanese-Americans to register during World War II, and some experts have recently argued that many of those laws, though in disuse, were never repealed, then that’s another matter. If such a list is passed around and mandated for Muslims, many of us will have little choice but to register in hopes that we can break that bank by the overwhelming volume of the protest.

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Kansas’ Kris Kobach is Evil and Nothing is Stopping Him

April 25, 2012 - Washington, District of Columbia, U.S. - Kansas Secretary of State KRIS W. KOBACH speaks to the media outside of the Supreme Court on Wednesday after the Court heard arguments on Arizona's controversial immigration law. Kobach played a significant role in the drafting of the law known as Arizona Senate Bill 1070 which seeks to crack down on illegal immigration. (Credit Image: © Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com)

– Kansas Secretary of State KRIS W. KOBACH

Grenoble   There’s a civil war happening in Kansas and the people are losing. Even worse it continues to also be a cancer spreading virally wherever it is not blocked in other states and nationally. The main carrier of this plague against democracy is Kris Kobach, the elected Secretary of State of Kansas, which gives him a small platform for his real work as the primary architect and author of hate speech couched as legislative acts around immigration, voting, marriage and other hard right issues. The truth is that Kris Kobach is evil, and my fear is that nothing is stopping him.

I’ve been on the Kobach Watch for years back to his early political races some years ago. He caught my attention when he was making speeches around the state of Kansas in his successful 2010 election calling for the people of Kansas to vote for him in order to prevent “ACORN from stealing elections” in the state. All’s fair in love, war, and I guess in Kobach’s view, politics, but I knew, as surely as Kobach knew at the time, that ACORN had no offices, staff or – to my knowledge – members in Kansas at the time, so Kobach’s campaign was constructed on a complete fabrication and was little more than an exercise in total demagoguery. Call me old fashioned now in the Age of Trump, but I see that as wrong.

I take some pleasure in the fact that the New York Times has noted that his zealotry has interfered with the federal administration of elections where a Kansan has tried to subvert the elections board in order to suppress votes at Kobach’s bidding. They didn’t name him out though, although they have now in editorials about his recalcitrance in blocking 17,000 voters based on extreme voter ID requirements. These voters can be counted in federal elections, but as Secretary of State despite losing all lower and higher court decisions, Kobach has ordered election officials not to count their local and state ballots to simply steal votes away. The Kansas City Star has called for him to lose the unique prosecutorial power he wrested from the state legislature as the only secretary of state in the country that can go to court over so-called voting fraud. In their words: “But now Kobach has been exposed as a big fraud on the issue of voter fraud, which studies have found to be almost nonexistent in America.” In another story, the Star wrote that Kobach’s voter cases had “exposed the incompetence of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at home and his standing as a national embarrassment as a public official.” The Star couldn’t help but note that the Daily Kos had found that on the Secretary of State’s website, he gave different instructions in English than Spanish and gave incorrect information in Spanish to misdirect their votes.

And, believe it or not, this almost pales compared to his work opposing immigration where he serves as general counsel for a national hater group. Who wrote the notorious and unconstitutional Arizona immigrant profiling act? Kris Kobach that’s who. Who wrote the even worse anti-immigrant act in Alabama? Kris Kobach that’s who! Who was involved in dirty tricks in the effort to re-elect the Republican Senator from Kansas? Yes, of course Kris Kobach as well as fines for mishandling money as party chair in Kansas and contributions problems in all of this campaigns.

You don’t want to check Wikipedia on this dude. Under immigration it’s one hateful lawsuit after another targeting immigrants.

Kobach has also litigated several lawsuits defending cities and states that adopt laws to discourage illegal immigration. He served as lead lawyer defending the city of Valley Park, Missouri in a federal case concerning an ordinance that sanctioned employers who hire unauthorized aliens. The ordinance was upheld by Missouri federal judge E. Richard Webber on January 31, 2008 (Gray v. Valley Park, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7238).[3][9] The ACLU, representing the plaintiff, appealed the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kobach prevailed in the appeal, and the Court allowed the Valley Park ordinance to stand (Gray v. Valley Park, 567 F.3d 976 (8th Cir. 2009)).

Kobach is also the lead attorney defending the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, whose anti-illegal immigration ordinances had been struck down by a federal judge in Pennsylvania and again before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.[10] In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Third Circuit’s decision and remanded the case back to the Third Circuit for reconsideration. Sup. Ct. No 10-722. In July 2013, the Third Circuit concluded again that both the employment and housing provisions of the Hazleton ordinances are pre-empted by federal immigration law.

He is currently involved with another lawsuit, involving a Farmers Branch, Texas ordinance that prevents landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.[3] That case is on appeal before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was originally heard by a three judge panel, then the Fifth Circuit granted rehearing en banc before the entire Court. Case No. 10-10751.

Read ‘em, and weep.

So of course he was out early for Trump and calling for military across the border. And, not surprisingly, he has infected the national Republican platform and pushed it even farther right.

The court system is just a blunt weapon for attacks by Kobach, and he has no interest in the rule of law that underpins the court, only whether or not he can weaponized the system. Kobach is such an ideologue that he believes he is above the law and the people. He’s a shining example of what’s wrong with Kansas, but now he’s a national scourge and the enemy of democracy everywhere. He plays by no rules other than the ones he makes, and he tries to twist all the rules that matter.

What does it take to stop Kobach?

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The Red States are Stirring on the Road West

Sunflower Act Rally

Sunflower Rally

Houston   Happy Independence Day!   I’m headed west again for the 4th straight summer for a piece of time.  Part work and part vacation. I’m trying to finish a book.  I’m going to celebrate 45 years in this work.   Friends and fun!  So this is by way of a warning.  I’m going to be thinking about some of the same things and some different things, so let the readers and listener beware.

This morning with friends we celebrated the 4th of July with a slice of watermelon to start the day.  Earlier I had gotten to walk down the beautiful paths between Heights Boulevard in Houston before dawn with Lucha, my Australian shepherd, and listen to the quiet in this huge city.

At the break of day it was wonderful to hear about the work of the Sunflower Community Action in Wichita, Kansas and its partnership with the Communications Workers of America.  As importantly, they are also going toe-to-toe with rightwing radical extremist, Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State, who threatened the organization directly in the name of the second amendment and gunslingers everywhere.    It was rougher to hear about the progress of some organizing drives both domestically and internationally in telecommunications.

These are crazy times, so I’m looking forward to thinking about them more deeply.  What do we make of a military coup to depose the first elected leader in Cairo? Can a court really restrain the government in Turkey when they rejected the development plans in Taksim Square in Istanbul?  Is watching Edward Snowden try to find asylum somewhere the global equivalent of OJ Simpson and his Bronco on the Los Angeles freeway?

One of my friends was charged up from the rally of thousands this Monday in Austin at the Capitol in the on-going fight for the rights of women around choice versus the anti-abortion men.  Texans can see the state dark blue in 20 years given the demographic changes and this fight and Wendy Davis’s filibuster has enlivened progressives throughout the state.  Frighteningly, many of these same political experts can see the Midwest going red at the same time.

So for a month we will look at some things differently on the road in the West and from the front steps of an Airstream in Montana.  Hang with me.   Let’s see what we come up with.

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Kansas’s Kris Kobach: Rightwing Voter Manipulator, Suppressor, and Demagogue

Kris Kobach

New Orleans  I’ve been watching Kris Kobach closely for the last four years, ever since he claimed in the Topeka newspapers that he was running to become Secretary of State in Kansas in 2008 to stop ACORN from committing “voter fraud,” even though ACORN did not have an operating office, organizer, or registration program in the state at that time, and he knew it.  At the least Kobach has stood prominently in my mind as a shorthand definition for pure and simple demagoguery.  Reminiscent of the classic Clint Eastwood line in great movie, The Outlaw Josie Wales, that is exactly what Kobach teaches young girls – and boys – in Kansas and, tragically, throughout the United States.

Kobach is also a case study for how something can go so horribly wrong when one is given exceptional tools but has no idea about how to responsibly use them.  An education at Harvard, then a scholarship at Oxford in political science, and a tour of Yale Law School, with time as a judge’s clerk and a mischief maker in the post-9/11 Bush Justice Department has sent him on a crooked path, complicated by the fact that he clearly has no moral compass.  Kobach has become ALEC and the right’s go-to-guy for hater legal theories.  He was responsible for much of the Arizona’s anti-immigrant 1070 legislation.  In his Kansas campaign he had coupled the “menace” of ACORN with his hate of immigrants who would to his lights be voting fraudulently with ACORN’s “help.”  He has also been a key legal figure in the push for voter IDs across the country.  For Kobach now all he has is his rightwing hammer and everything is simply a nail.

Ryan J. Reilly in a short piece for TPM shared remarks by Kobach at a panel at the far right Heritage Foundation in Washington that was co-sponsored by an arm of the Tea Party.  In a classic piece of McCarthy-esque demagoguery of “blaming the victim,” he tried to make ACORN the “goat” for the right’s success in pushing voter IDs to suppress the vote now:

This issue really didn’t reach the public consciousness … until after the 2008 election cycle, when there was so much focus on ACORN,” Kobach said. “That one group was just all over the news media and people started hearing about it.

Well, yeah, people like Kobach made up fabulous fantasies founded on baseless exaggerations and untruths to sully ACORN’s longstanding and successful voter registration programs to make ACORN the hammer to hit their nail, which in 2008, and even more so now in 2012, is solely meant to depress the vote.  Any means justifies the ends, which is also a classic definition of having no moral core.

Reilly reports that Kobach further gave some props to Republican candidate John McCain, but what he was really doing was patting his own back for his tactical success at putting McCain in a corner where he infamously claimed in a debate with Obama that ACORN was on the verge of stealing the election.   You have to give Kobach and his buddies some grudging credit for their guiding principle:  if you are going to tell a lie, then tell a big one!

Kobach credited heavy coverage of ACORN, which also took some shots from then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain, with inspiring legislators in various states to implement new laws.

The TPM headline refers, accurately, to “ACORN Hysteria” and Reilly notes, correctly, that ACORN got a bum rap since it had no choice but to turn in ALL registration forms by law:

ACORN, like all voter registration groups, was required under many state laws to turn over all applications it received even if it believed they were illegitimate, though the organization said it flagged suspected fraudulent cards to election officials.

Kobach knows all of that, not that it matters.  He was on an evil mission and used ACORN to stir his pot and ACORN was unable at the time to have the true story told.  It’s no surprise that Kobach is from Wisconsin and spent many years of his youth there or that his father had put them there selling cars.  Wisconsin’s Senator Joe McCarthy obviously became a model for Kobach and he learned something as well about selling clunkers.  They may not drive far, just as he moans and groans about the unfairness and stupidity of the courts in ruling much of his anti-immigrant legislation unconstitutional along with the current reverses in the courts for some of his voter ID suppression, but the dealer doesn’t care as long as he gets the case and gets them off the lot.

This is a dangerous man on an evil mission with the motto that everything is fair in war that lacks any notion of love for democracy and is principles.  He is obviously good at what he does and can get his hater-bills off the lot, but we simply must do everything to prevent them from gaining any speed or any more distance in the direction he is trying to steer people – and parties – along this bad road.

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