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Kansas lawmakers assist Kobach in attack on voting rights

Imagine2050 Staff • May 06, 2015
Kris Kobach
Kris Kobach

It seems Kansas lawmakers want to give Secretary of State Kris Kobach even more authority in his efforts to suppress voter turnout.

Since taking office in 2011, Kobach has authored and worked to implement the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act, which includes a harsh proof-of-citizenship requirement that prevented thousands of registered voters from casting ballots in state elections last year.

The Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act includes a harsh proof-of-citizenship requirement which prevented thousands of registered voters from casting ballots in Kansas elections last year.

Kobach is currently suing the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to force the agency to modify federal registration forms to comply with his SAFE Act. The Tenth Circuit ruled against Kobach in November and he has since filed an appeal for the case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is still pending. In 2013, The Supreme Court ruled against a similar proof-of-citizenship measure in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the organized anti-immigrant movement, recently submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Kobach. Kobach often works as an attorney with IRLI.

On Monday, members of the Kansas House Judiciary Committee approved SB 34 and went one step closer to giving Kobach’s office the ability to prosecute cases of alleged voter fraud. The bill now heads to a vote before the full Kansas House of Representatives. It already passed the state senate 23-17 in February.

Members of Kobach’s own party reluctant to expand powers

While they hold strong majorities in both houses of the Kansas legislature, the Kansas Senate’s close vote on SB 34 indicates that a number Republicans are not quite ready to give Kobach’s office prosecutorial authority.

Could it be because they know how statistically insignificant voter fraud is in America?

Are they checking Kobach’s powers after he so blatantly abused his office’s authority in effort to influence elections for partisan gain in the last election cycle?

It isn’t just members of Kobach’s own party expressing opposition to his request for more power. Local prosecutors in Kansas – the ones originally tasked with prosecuting any cases of alleged fraud that Kobach’s office may find – are failing to see the point either.

Indeed, The Associated Press reported in February that county prosecutors took action on less than half of the total 18 cases of suspected fraud Kobach’s office identified during the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Based on The AP’s report, it appears all of the 18 cases were instances of supposed double voting identified by the Interstate Crosscheck program Kobach’s office operates. As Al-Jazeera America reported last year, the Crosscheck program relies on dubious and often-incomplete information to find so-called “matches” to reveal double votes. Just like voter ID laws that Kobach so vociferously supports, Al-Jazeera America’s investigation of Crosscheck databases from three states found his Crosscheck system also disproportionately threatens the rights of minority voters.

Voter fraud extremely rare

As an aside, a quick thought experiment to show how truly causeless Kobach’s efforts are:

Official statistics from Kobach’s office indicate there were 857,631 and 1,182,771 total votes cast in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Even if we accept, for argument’s sake, that 1,000 ineligible or fraudulent ballots were cast in each of the 18 cases Kobach referred to prosecutors resulting in 18,000 total invalid votes cast – an outlandish figure, of course, but we’ll consider it anyways – it would still amount to less than one percent of the total votes counted in those elections. Even if all those 18,000 fraudulent votes occurred in the 2010 election – the one with lower participation, and therefore the one whose outcome is more susceptible to potential manipulation – the illegal ballots would still just barely reach two percent.

This is of course an extreme example, but it speaks to how farcical it is for elected officials to continue using public resources combat this nonexistent threat.

It’s even more farcical for Kobach to seek the ability to prosecute these alleged offenses when Kansas is already well-equipped to handle such cases should they ever arise. As one prosecutor from Kansas’ Riley County told The AP, “We have 105 counties with 105 county attorneys — I don’t know how having 106 is going to make it any better. I just don’t see the need for it.”

We don’t see the need either, but we know why Kobach continues to insist voter fraud is an actual issue: it creates space for him and his colleagues within the nativist movement to continue their ongoing campaign against minority voting power.

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