Last month, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach barely squeaked past Gov. Jeff Colyer in a contentious and scandal-ridden Republican gubernatorial primary. He’ll face Democratic nominee Laura Kelly, a state senator.
And while Kansas is as reliably red a state as they come, Kobach will now have to campaign in a general election while under grand jury investigation.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a grand jury must be convened for the purposes of investigating whether Kobach deliberately neglected to register voters ahead of the 2016 election.
The decision stems from a formal complaint brought by Lawrence, Kansas resident Steven Davis, who alleges that Kobach willfully and maliciously chose not to process online voter registrations in 2016, effectively blocking legal residents from voting in that year’s elections. Lower courts initially rejected Davis’s request for a grand jury, but the state’s court of appeals overturned those rulings, paving the way for a grand jury investigation.
Kobach is no stranger to legal trouble. In an attempt to combat Kansas’s non-existent voter fraud epidemic, Kobach has made a career out of pushing for government-sanctioned voter suppression that disproportionately targets subsets of the population that are more likely to vote for Democrats.
Those efforts have largely been impeded or outright blocked by courts, but not without interference from Kobach himself. When one judge struck down a draconian state voter ID law shepherded through the legislature by Kobach, he instructed the county clerks under his purview to ignore the court order.
When another judge ruled Kobach must inform voters of their registration status, he refused to comply, leading to the courts to hold him in contempt. He then used taxpayer dollars to pay the fines associated with that contempt order. His malpractice and misunderstanding of even the most basic legal principles is so severe, a federal judge ordered him to take six hours of continuing education classes.
The grand jury investigation will now be taking place as Kobach tries to avoid becoming the latest embarrassment for Republicans, who have lost dozens of local, state, and federal elections in districts they’ve previously held onto for years, in some cases decades. In the first poll conducted since the primary elections were decided, Kobach has just a one point lead over Kelly.