UPDATE 12/2: According to Trump’s former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Kobach has been a source for Trump’s misinformation on voter fraud: “The president-elect has been talking to different people, including Kris Kobach of Kansas, about voting irregularities or the number of illegal votes that may have been cast. And I believe that he bases his information on that.”
When President-elect Donald Trump baselessly claimed on Twitter this week that he actually won the popular vote in this month’s presidential election “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” it was only a matter of time before his transition adviser Kris Kobach got behind him.
Kobach, who in addition to being the secretary of state of Kansas has worked for years to push draconian anti-immigrant and voter suppression laws throughout the country, told reporters today that “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 said that he estimated—based on extrapolating from one widely disputed 2014 study—that 3.2 million noncitizens illegally voted in the election, and “you can probably conclude that a very high percentage voted for Hillary Clinton given the diametric opposite positions of the two candidates on the issue of immigration.”
Neither Kobach nor anybody else attempting to back up Trump’s claim has produced any actual evidence that noncitizen voting took place in the last election at anywhere near the magnitude that Trump was suggesting. Trump seems to have gotten the 3 million figure from far-right media outlets that picked up a single Twitter post from Gregg Phillips, a board member of the Tea Party “voter integrity” group True the Vote. True the Vote, in turn, said that it “absolutely” supported Trump’s claim but that it would take “several months” to compile the data that it says would substantiate it.
Kobach, asked about his lack of evidence for claiming that illegal voting took place at such a massive scale, cited his work in Kansas, where his all-out effort to seek proof of noncitizen voting has produced just a tiny handful of cases over a span of several years. In contrast, a Kobach-led effort to institute one of the toughest voter ID requirements in the nation—which Kobach says is necessary to stop noncitizens from voting—resulted in thousands of voters in the state being suspended from voter rolls.
Kobach refused to answer reporters who questioned whether he would encourage a Trump administration to pursue a national “proof of citizenship” requirement for voting modeled on the one he is trying to implement in Kansas. The question isn’t irrelevant: In addition to serving as a top immigration adviser on Trump’s transition team, Kobach has been rumored to be under consideration for a position in the incoming administration.