Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wins first conviction for noncitizen voting

Kobach calls it ‘the tip of the iceberg,’ but his own numbers suggest otherwise

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (right) appeared on Fox and Friends on Thursday to discuss what he said is widespread voting by noncitizens across the country.

On Wednesday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced that his office has secured its first conviction against a noncitizen for voting illegally.

Victor David Garcia Bebek plead guilty in Sedgwick County District Court on April 7 to three misdemeanor counts of voting without being qualified, according to a press release from Kobach’s office. Bebek’s plea agreement includes up to three years of unsupervised probation and a $5,000 fine.

Bebek voted in the 2012 and 2014 general elections, along with a special election in 2012, according to Kobach’s office. Election officials in Sedgwick County discovered the illegal votes when Bebek attempted to register at his citizenship ceremony earlier this year.

The state also brought three counts of election perjury against Bebek in the criminal complaint filed last March, but it apparently dropped those charges as part of the plea deal.

“[H]is conviction is just the tip of the iceberg,” Kobach told Fox and Friends on Thursday. “In that same county, we know of 24 other aliens who registered to vote, some of whom voted and others attempted to register. But we can’t prosecute because the statute of limitations has run.”

In February, election officials in Sedgwick County provided ThinkProgress with a list of 32 noncitizens who either registered to vote or attempted to register in the county between 2003 and 2016.

Of the 32 people on that list, 14 successfully registered before they were citizens. Five actually voted in at least one federal, state, or local election between 2004 and 2014, and two have now been prosecuted.

ThinkProgress’ version of the list does not include names, but the description of one of its entries matches the details of Bebek’s case.

Kobach has focused much of his tenure as Kansas’ secretary of state on combating what he says is widespread voter fraud that undermines the integrity of U.S. elections. In 2015, he became the only secretary of state in the country with authority to prosecute voter fraud.

Bebek’s case marks Kobach’s eighth conviction since then, according to his office, and his first against a noncitizen who voted illegally. But Kobach is adamant that noncitizen voting is a huge unseen problem both in Kansas and across the country.

“I think it’s probably in excess of a million,” Kobach told Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network last February when asked about noncitizen voting. “I think it’s in excess of a million if you take the entire country, for sure.”

Documents obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress and published earlier this month undercut that claim, showing that Kobach’s estimates for noncitizen voting in Kansas are based on samples of as few as 14 people.

Even Jesse Richman, a professor of political science at Old Dominion University who authored the reports on which Kobach bases his claims, disputes Kobach’s numbers.

“I don’t think there’s much support at all for the notion that we’re talking about several million,” he told ThinkProgress.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and other administration officials continue repeating Kobach’s unsubstantiated claims to argue that widespread voter fraud cost Trump the popular vote last November.

Trump has appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead an investigation into those voter fraud claims. On Thursday, Kobach told Fox and Friends that he’s advising that investigation.

“I have advised the White House on this problem of noncitizens voting, the problem with people voting in two states in the same election, and other forms of voter fraud, absolutely,” Kobach said.

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