The Slatest

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses in Kansas

Failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach speaks at a rally with President Donald Trump in Topeka, Kansas.
Failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach speaks at a rally with President Donald Trump in Topeka, Kansas.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The nation’s most notorious vote thief has gone down in flames.

On Tuesday night, Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren’t.) He led Donald Trump’s failed voter-fraud commission, then eked out a victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary against current GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer. But even in deep-red Kansas, voters appear to have rebelled against his brand of paranoid, xenophobic conservatism.

Although Kobach built up a national profile as a formidable politician, he is, in fact, deeply incompetent. He spent years promoting Crosscheck, a program that ostensibly detected double voting but actually had an error rate of 99.5 percent. He pushed a law that compelled Kansans to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, then defended it himself at trial—at which point it became clear that he doesn’t understand basic rules of civil procedure. A federal judge repeatedly reprimanded him during the hearings, then ruled against him and held him in contempt of court.

As Kobach struggled to defend his signature law, he led Trump’s voter-fraud commission right off a cliff. His own co-commissioners openly criticized him for lying about the existence of fraud. One sued him for concealing key documents from him; after a federal judge demanded that Kobach turn over the documents, he disbanded the commission instead. To save face, Kobach claimed he would take his work to the Department of Homeland Security—a claim that the DHS swiftly rebuked.

Then there was the 2018 Republican primary in Kansas. From an administrative standpoint, the election was an absolute disaster. Officials failed to predict major turnout, leading to endless lines and delays. A number of new voting machines, on which the state spent millions of dollars, also failed. The blame fell upon Kobach, who spent his tenure as secretary of state pursuing phantom voter fraud instead of doing his job and ensuring that elections ran smoothly.

Now Kobach has faced the biggest humiliation of them all: He lost to a Democrat, in Kansas. All his voter suppression schemes—his proof-of-citizenship measure, his poll closures—could not pull him over the finish line. Kobach alienated much of the Republican establishment during his brawl with Colyer, and his flagrant maladministration of the voter fraud commission seems to have hurt his relationship with Trump. There is simply no clear path forward for his political career after Tuesday’s defeat. Kobach has always been a loser. Now he is a loser out of a job.