Listen to The Best Democracy Money Can Buy podcast with Greg Palast and Flashpoints' Dennis Bernstein. This week they expose Donald Trump’s go-to operative who would steal your vote — by accusing you of not being an American. The Vote Rustler of the Week: Kris Kobach, Trump's man behind SB 1070, the "Driving While Brown" law.
Dennis Bernstein: Welcome to our weekly Election Protection Bulletin with best-selling author Greg Palast. Let's start in Topeka, Kansas with its Secretary of State Kris Kobach. He's definitely going head to head with the ACLU there.
Greg Palast: Kris Kobach is the most influential Republican Secretary of State in America - the Katherine Harris of 2016.
He's one of the very first governmental Republican supporters of Donald Trump. Anne Coulter has said Trump should pick him as his running mate. This guy is an important cat.
What's he up to? He's “saving” America from an invasion of aliens - not from outer space, but from other nations, wading the Rio Grande to vote in American elections. He claims there is a mass incursion of illegal aliens coming to the US to vote for Hillary.
Reporter Greg Palast confront Trump ally Kris Kobach, Secretary of State of Kansas from the video  by Zach D. Roberts
The federal government, despite a massive and costly hunt, has found almost no non-citizen has voted. (Florida’s campaign to stop alien voters netted a single conviction—an Austrian who registered Republican, while threatening the votes of 181,000.) Yet, Kobach asserts the alien voter ships are real. To prevent this crime that doesn't happen, he's required anyone registering to vote in Kansas to prove their citizenship.
This is not as easy as it sounds. A driver’s license doesn't count. A social security card doesn't count. Only naturalization papers, a passport, or an original birth certificate count. As a result, the state of Kansas has suspended the registration of 36,000 young people. [This doesn’t affect Kobach’s voters who have an average age of 115.]
This is very effective at keeping out voters of color and young people. Not many poor Americans or people of color have passports. They have not just returned from their vacation in the Alps with their passport in hand. Many people, including those who were born at home, cannot find their original birth certificate. This is crushing the voter rolls of the state of Kansas. Now it’s in Georgia as well.
DB: This has become a model for many states.
GP: Yes. Kris Kobach’s influence is wide. Kobach wrote SB 1070 for the state of Arizona, which was mostly thrown out by the courts as racist and unconstitutional. This guy is no foolish redneck bigot. He's a graduate of Harvard, Yale and Oxford.
A few years ago, Indiana was the first state to require a photo voter ID to vote. There was only that one state in 2006, and now 23 states require it. If Kobach gets away with requiring citizenship proof in Kansas--Alabama and Georgia have already added that requirement-- you can bet that coming soon will be North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and many others. They know what they are doing.
And dig this: It’s quite unusual that Kobach, as Secretary of State of Kansas, is still counsel, a lawyer, for a group IRLI, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of two allied groups called Numbers USA and FAIR. FAIR is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a hate group. It was founded by John Tanton, who says the purpose of the group is to maintain a "European American majority."
Kobach - while a lawyer for this hate group and Secretary of State of Kansas at the same time - has also been the lawyer for Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Arpaio was officially charged with racism by the US Justice Department.)
As Secretary of State of Kansas, Kobach is in charge of voting in Kansas— and the most influential Republican voting official in the US.
Kobach has mounted a frontal assault on the federal voter protection, starting with the Motor Voter law.
Under Bill Clinton, the US made a huge leap in the voter franchise - the biggest since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 - by enacting the Motor Voter Law. Now, when you get a driver's license, you fill out the attached form and you become a voter. Adding voter registration forms to the driver’s license application has massively increased the reach of voter registration in America.
The Republicans, especially Kobach, really hate it. They say the federal Motor Voter form does not require that you prove your citizenship. You just sign a box saying you are a citizen and sign it.
So Kobach said that if you register on this federal form, YOU CAN’T VOTE IN STATE ELECTIONS unless you register separately with your proof of citizenship.
The result: There are 36,000 young people in Kansas , especially young voters of color, whose state voting rights have been suspended. So Kansas literally has an official apartheid voting system.
DB: The ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to declare this as an illegal system based on dual registration. Where is this case going?
GP: Going badly. There’s a terrible new twist.
Kobach asked the federal government to make a special voter form for his state, and for Alabama and Georgia–other white Republican-controlled states. The federal government and courts turned him down.
But then, one of Kobach's acolytes became the chief of the federal Elections Assistance Commission. Kobach’s man Brian Newby is now the Executive Director of the agency that’s supposed to protect our vote! Newby’s first act in office was to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to have their own special voter registration form—allowing those states to require proof of citizenship to vote. This may moot the ACLU's complaint because the federal form now includes this special extra hurdle for voters in those state to prove citizenship.
Requiring proof of citizenship is a devastatingly effective means to suppress the registration of new, young, minorities and low-income voters. So, the ACLU has sued the US agency as well. Weirdly (and thankfully), the US Justice Dept. is backing the ACLU against the federal government.
Then the League of Women Voters joined the ACLU to sue the federal agency. Kobach's response was to call the League of Women Voters the "Communist League of Women Voters." Reporters couldn't believe their ears, so he repeated, "The Communist League of Women Voters."
Is there really a danger non-citizens will flood the polling stations? That’s ridiculous. The reason folks who are not citizens never vote is that the Motor Voter Form asks you to state if you’re a citizen — and makes it perfectly clear that if you lie, you can go to prison for five years. People aren't going to risk going to prison for five years just to vote for school board, or even for president. There’s been no problem with this. Why would an alien without documents sign a form with their address? To make it easier for ICE to snap them up? It’s nuts. But Kobach won’t accept this. He demands a passport or original birth certificate or you don't get to register.
Consider the implications of this new voter form for November.
Georgia will be a swing state in 2016 and Alabama has a crucial Senate race this year. Blocking voters who can't easily prove they are citizens has killed registrations among young voters in these states. Guess which way young people vote?
As an investigative reporter I follow the money. Who is behind this latest suppression tactic, the attack on voters as potential aliens?. Who is paying for Kobach?
A group called Numbers USA gave $100,000 to a little town called Farmers Branch, Texas. The town gave that $100,000 to Kobach to defend a racist law that was immediately thrown out by the courts. Numbers USA is funded by something called Donors’ Trust—which, in turn, is the funnel for the funds from the Charles and David Koch. So, where does Kris Kobach get his pin money? He gets it from the brothers Koch, through this chain of front organizations.
DB: The Koch brothers say publicly they are stepping out of this election because they don't support Trump, so don't want any part of this. We assume they are not controlling the structure of the election. But they are only talking about one candidate. Their hands are all over everything - who has the control, the power, and who has the right to vote in the future of this country, in which is soon, whites will be a minority.
GP: Let's not fall for the jive. It's not whether they support Trump or not. The Koch brothers are putting $900 million - just short of a billion dollars - into this election. If it's not for the presidency, what is it for? It's very clear: If the Republicans lose just four senate seats - and they've got 24 seats up for grabs - the control of the Senate flips to the Democrats.
I don't take sides between Republicans and Democrats. I take sides on allowing people to vote. You see a massive push by the Koch Brothers promoting these various voter suppression tactics and organizations pushing for voter suppression.
They provided the money for the attack on the Voting Rights Act. The destruction of the Voting Rights Act was based on the case of Shelby v. Holder. Shelby County, Alabama, doesn't have a pot to pee in so they can't afford fancy lawyers to argue before the Supreme Court. The money, the cost of the entire case, was paid for by an organization funded by the Koch brothers. Let's not get fooled by whether they love Trump.
DB: What can people do to protect themselves?
GP: First, check your registration. They may accuse you of being a felon, or an alie from another planet. Last week, I found my registration missing in California. Check online with your secretary of state to be sure you are registered. Even if you've been voting in the same place for 20 years, it's not safe.
DB: Thank you Greg. We’ll have our next Voter Protection Bulletin next Wednesday.
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