TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party’s chairman demanded Tuesday that Democrats’ last nominee for governor withdraw as an attorney from a federal lawsuit challenging voter registration restrictions championed by GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
State GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold said former Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis’ involvement in the lawsuit filed last week violates a state ethics law.
Davis countered that Republican Party officials are misreading the ethics law and called Arnold’s demand “a media stunt” designed to distract from Kobach’s efforts to cancel more than 31,000 incomplete voter registrations. Davis said he will stay on the case.
Most incomplete registrations are for residents who failed to comply with a 2013 law requiring new voters to provide papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. Kobach pushed for the law’s enactment and imposed a rule, effective Friday, directing counties to cancel registrations incomplete for more than 90 days.
Davis and another Democratic attorney are representing two northeast Kansas residents with incomplete registrations who are suing Kobach. They’re challenging both the proof-of-citizenship law and the culling of voter registration records. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, in Kansas City, Kansas, planned Wednesday to set a hearing on their request to block enforcement of both policies while the lawsuit proceeds.
As a legislator, Davis voted for the final version of the proof-of-citizenship law. Arnold said a state ethics law prohibits a legislator or ex-legislator, within a year of leaving office, from representing clients who challenge the constitutionality of a statute the lawmaker voted for. Arnold said Davis is engaging in “political grandstanding” and “breathtaking” hypocrisy.
“But his apparent illegal conduct is most troubling,” Arnold said.
Davis said Republicans are ignoring language in the ethics law making it clear that the statute does not apply to the lawsuit against Kobach.
“My clients want me to proceed with this case and that’s what we fully intend to do,” Davis said.
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