House Dems call for Kobach's removal from voter fraud commission

House Dems call for Kobach's removal from voter fraud commission
© Getty

The top Democrats on four key House committees are calling on Vice President Pence to boot Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach off President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE's voter fraud commission and rescind the panel's request for sensitive voter data.

In a Tuesday letter to Pence, Reps. John ConyersJohn James ConyersThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems release first transcripts from impeachment probe witnesses Hispanic Caucus dedicates Day of the Dead altar to migrants who died in US custody Today On Rising: The media beclowns themselves on Baghdadi MORE Jr. (D-Mich.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee; Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse to vote next week on bill to create women's history museum The Hill's Morning Report - Icy moments between Trump, Pelosi mark national address Baltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Oversight Committee; Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonSenior black Democrats urge party chairman to take responsibility for Iowa Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars MORE (D-Miss.), the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee; and Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, allege that Kobach, who serves as the panel's vice chairman, has used his position on the commission to advance his own campaign for governor of Kansas.

"Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the Commission to promote his own campaign for governor of Kansas," the lawmakers wrote. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"These actions undermine the integrity of the Commission and raise significant concerns that the Commission will be used as a tool for voter suppression."

It also alleges that a June 28 request by Kobach that state election officials provide troves of sensitive information on voters violates federal privacy laws, and it failed to provide a detailed disclosure of how the data would be used and stored.

So far, dozens of secretaries of state have pushed back against that request for information, with some saying that disclosing such data would violate state laws. Others have refused to comply because they say the commission is intended to suppress minority voters and improperly purge state voter rolls.

Among the types of information requested by the panel are names, driver's license numbers and the last four digits of voters' social security numbers. Kobach has defended the request, explaining that the commission only asked for publicly available information. 

Trump tapped Kobach, one of the nation's most ardent advocates for voter identification laws, to serve as the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which the president created to investigate his widely debunked claim that millions of illegal voters cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election.

Less than a month later, Kobach launched a campaign for Kansas governor. 

But in their letter, Conyers, Cummings, Thompson and Brady say that by spotlighting his commission role on his gubernatorial campaign website and during campaign appearances, Kobach is violating a federal election law called the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from using their positions to benefit political campaigns. 

"Mr. Kobach should step down as Vice-Chair and be replaced with an individual who can be trusted to ensure that the Commission operates in a bipartisan manner to protect voter information and to protect the right of Americans to vote," they wrote.