The past month has not been great for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The nativist stalwart completely lost his cool last month after peaceful demonstrators protested the staunchly anti-immigrant policies and legislation he has helped author and defend in courts across the country. Last week, one such measure barring undocumented immigrants from renting housing in Farmers Branch, Texas was struck down this week by an appeals court. And at home in Kansas the voter suppression efforts he championed – and eventually passed – have some unfortunate ramifications.
In 2011, Kansas legislature passed the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act – a piece of legislation advocated by Kobach. The Act, which went into effect last Jan. 1, requires proof of citizenship be presented when registering to vote. However, due to a computer system error, there are now over 12,000 voters in Kansas whose voting eligibility is “in suspense.”
“In 2011, the Legislature was told that this would be a very seamless process and that voter registration wouldn’t be a problem because people would have provided that information to the DMV and they would automatically transfer that,” Kansas State Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) told The Wichita Eagle, “But that doesn’t appear to be happening now.” In another Eagle article, Kobach downplayed the significance of his SAFE Act’s consequences saying, “I don’t think it’s a major problem” and that it is only “a small number of people” adversely affected by the law.
What Kobach fails to realize is that 12,000 now-ineligible voters is a significantly larger number than seven – which is the total number of voter fraud convictions in Kansas from 1997 to 2010.
Even though a similar measure in Arizona was ruled unconstitutional last month, it is unsurprising for Kobach to brush aside 12,000 voters while brazenly attempting to end the virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud. After all, voter ID laws such as the SAFE Act target minority voters – something Kobach and his white nationalist allies within the Tanton Network seemingly have no problem doing.
In a 2011 op-ed Kobach wrote, “Photo ID requirements are a reasonable way to secure our elections. It’s absurd to suggest that anyone is ‘disenfranchised’ by such protective measures.” 12,000 voters in Kansas would currently beg to differ. We must continue to resist and oppose laws such as the SAFE Act. The real absurdity is allowing nativists like Kris Kobach and other members of the anti-immigrant movement to continue attacking our country’s multiracial democracy to fulfill their bigoted dreams.