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Kobach supports Trump’s unsubstantiated voting fraud claims

November 30, 2016
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach presides over of a meeting of the State Board of Canvassers as it prepares to certify the results of this year's general election, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. Kobach is supporting President-elect Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claim that he would have won the popular vote if "millions" of people had not voted illegally. Kobach offered no evidence Wednesday of specific cases of election fraud. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is supporting President-elect Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that he would have won the popular vote if “millions” of people hadn’t voted illegally.

Kobach offered no evidence Wednesday of specific cases of election fraud this year. Instead, he cited a large-scale study of the 2008 election to suggest that several million non-citizens living in the U.S. could have voted illegally — and that the overwhelming majority also would have supported Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton at this point,” Kobach told reporters, who asked about Trump’s claim after Kansas certified its results Wednesday.

The study Kobach cited surveyed nearly 33,000 people, including a small number of non-citizens who said they voted. Two political scientists at Old Dominion University in Virginia said in a 2014 Washington Post column and academic paper that the data showed illegal voting by non-citizens could influence close races, a conclusion that’s been disputed.

Trump captured more than enough electoral votes to become president by winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by narrow margins. But Clinton led the popular vote by more than 2.3 million ballots.

Kobach, a conservative Republican and early Trump backer, is a potential nominee for U.S. homeland security secretary. He also is the state’s top elections official and the architect of tough Kansas voter identification laws, including a 2013 requirement for new voters to provide papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering.

The proof-of-citizenship requirement has been attacked in multiple federal and state court lawsuits. Kobach has long argued that voting by immigrants in the U.S. illegally and other non-citizens is a serious threat warranting such a requirement.

Between 2003 and 2013, the state documented 30 cases in which non-citizens registered. The requirement blocked 14 non-citizens from registering in Sedgwick County. The figures are contained in a federal appeals court ruling.

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an emailed statement: “I’d say that it’s shocking for Mr. Kobach to make such plainly false assertions, but he’s been peddling these lies for quite some time.”

Kobach cited the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, involving 34 universities and organizations, including Harvard University. The survey included responses from more than 300 people who said they were not citizens, with nearly 40 saying they voted.

Kobach extrapolated from those numbers to support Trump’s unsubstantiated election fraud claim and assert that several million non-citizens likely voted this year.

“You can probably conclude that a very high percentage voted for Hillary Clinton, given the diametric, opposite positions of the two candidates on the immigration issue,” Kobach said.

But Jesse Richman, an associate political science professor and co-author of the Old Dominion paper, said in an online posting Monday that while it is plausible votes from non-citizens added to Clinton’s total, “The claim Trump is making is not supported by our data.”

Other studies have shown voter impersonation to be rare. In one study, a Loyola Law School professor found 31 instances involving allegations of voter impersonation out of 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections between 2000 and 2014.

Three people involved in the election surveys wrote in a Washington Post column in October that the result in the 2008 survey about illegal voting “almost certainly” resulted from mistakes by respondents in reporting their citizenship status and the best estimate for such voting “is zero.”

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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