Local lawmakers and prosecutors share concern over pending legislation that if passed, would give Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute election fraud cases. Different versions of the bill containing Kobach’s proposal already have been approved by the House and Senate, and there is speculation the final bill will be passed by the Legislature by the end of this week. State Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said he is completely against it. ”I voted against it in committee. I voted against it every step along the way,” Jennings said.
Articles about voting issues in Kansas.
Kansas lawmakers are close to giving Secretary of State Kris Kobach new power he’s sought for his office to investigate and prosecute potential election fraud cases. The Republican secretary of state said Friday that he anticipates a bill expanding his office’s authority passing the GOP-dominated Legislature after its members reconvene next week to wrap up their business for the year. Kobach has sought the power since taking office in January 2011 but has met resistance in the past from Democrats and moderate Republicans. The House and Senate have approved different versions of a bill containing Kobach’s proposal, setting up negotiations over the final version. Legislators end their annual spring break Wednesday. “I’m optimistic that it will get done,” Kobach said.
In the April 2 city and school board election, there were 45 people who couldn’t go to the polls in Ellis County. Part of a voter registration law took effect this year — proof of U.S. citizenship for first-time Kansas voters — and they did not complete the registration process to become eligible to vote. The last of the three parts of the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act, which was drafted by the office of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, took effect Jan. 1. It requires proof of U.S. citizenship for those who register to vote for the first time in the state. If a person attempting to register to vote doesn’t provide a citizenship document upon completion of the application, that person must submit proof to the county election office.
Four months after Ken Corbet narrowly unseated Ann Mah for the Kansas House 54th District seat, the race continues to reverberate through the halls of the Statehouse and a federal court. Before adjourning until May, the House and Senate passed a bill Friday barring disclosure of information about voters who cast provisional ballots — a bill largely inspired by Mah. Mah, a Democrat, found herself trailing the Republican Corbet by 27 votes out of more than 10,000 cast on election night last November. The race wasn’t over: 104 Shawnee County voters in her district had cast provisional ballots — ballots that had to be reviewed by county canvassers before they could be counted — and there were more 54th District provisional voters in Osage and Douglas Counties. With about 10 days before the canvass, Mah contacted county officials seeking the names of provisional voters so she could contact them. The question of whether she is allowed to do that led to a legal challenge in which Secretary of State Kris Kobach was front and center.
The Finney County Clerk’s office is reporting that a computer system malfunction Tuesday night led to an error in the precinct ballot numbers reported by various media outlets covering the local elections. It also led to confusion for people waiting for results to be posted at the clerk’s office Tuesday night. Election workers who posted the results said they were unofficial, but many observers left with the impression that, other than the normal provisional ballots that are counted when all results are canvassed, there weren’t additional regular ballots to be counted. None of the unofficial winners changed as a result of the error. Election results will be canvassed at 9 a.m. Monday in the Finney County Commission chambers at the County administrative Center, 311 N. Ninth St. County Clerk Elsa Ulrich said the computer problem was discovered Tuesday night after polls closed and the results began to be tallied. Ulrich said a card that contains a program reads ballots as they go through the counting machine. The results are saved to a disk. But for an unknown reason, the card would not read in Ulrich’s card reader.
“Until the card was read, I didn’t know how many ballots were counted at each precinct,” she said. “I insert it into one of my card readers and it drops into a software program. The problem was it wouldn’t go into the software program.”
Kansas: Senate passes bill giving secretary of state extra power but barring him from having PAC | The Republic
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would get the power he’s sought for his office to prosecute election fraud cases, but he’d also have to shut down his political action committee under legislation approved Thursday by the state Senate. The Senate approved the bill on a 31-9 vote, sending it to the House, where its future is less certain. Kobach, a former constitutional law professor, said he doubts a law prohibiting the secretary of state from having a PAC would be constitutional. But he also said he’s optimistic legislators ultimately will junk the anti-PAC proposal while expanding his office’s authority. “I’m pleased that the Senate intends to get serious about the prosecution of election crimes,” Kobach said during an interview.
A U.S. District Court ruling handed down Wednesday in Kansas granted disclosure of the names of provisional ballot voters to candidates in a tightly contested state house race, thereby clarifying the scope of voter privacy protection under federal law. The ruling was issued in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prevent disclosure of the names. Kobach argued that federal election law protects voters’ identities from disclosure, citing § 302(a) of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA): “Access to information about an individual provisional ballot shall be restricted to the individual who cast the ballot.” U.S. District Court Judge Marten rejected Kobach’s argument, reading the plain text of the statute to protect only disclosure of how someone voted, not the identit of the voter. The day following the election, when unofficial results showed incumbent Democratic Representative Ann Mah of Kansas’ 54th House district trailing her Republican challenger by 27 votes out of a total 10,633 cast, she issued a request for the names of the individuals who had cast provisional ballots in her district. That afternoon, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to prevent disclosure of the names.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the voter identification requirements that debuted last year were a resounding success and legislators can move on to more changes, such as consolidating local and state elections. But House Democrats, led by freshman Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka, say not so fast. Alcala, a former Topeka City Council member, said he is alarmed by a bill to move local spring elections to November and Kobach’s ideas to streamline the hefty ballots that would cause. “I have serious concerns about moving spring elections to the fall, and I also have concerns about switching to at-large elections,” Alcala said.
The state’s voter identification law came under fire Tuesday night at a legislative forum where ordinary citizens got a chance to tell lawmakers what they want from the session that begins next week. The open-mike session drew a crowd of about 100, about 40 of whom chose to speak on a variety of issues ranging from abortion to fluoridated water to police brutality. But the 25 lawmakers who attended the forum heard the most about dissatisfaction with the voting law they passed in 2011 at the request of Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach contends that photo ID and proof of citizenship are necessary to prevent voter fraud by immigrants legal and illegal. But resident Bryan Mann told the lawmakers that the real purpose of the voter ID law is to suppress Democratic-leaning voter groups – especially minorities and the elderly – to cement Republican domination of state government.
Kansas: Kobach: Understaffing, undertraining caused Sedgwick County’s election-night problems | Wichita Eagle
Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Friday his office has completed its investigation and found that understaffing and undertraining were the primary causes of vote-counting problems in the November election in Sedgwick County. Kobach said he will recommend that county officials increase the number of employees at the election office, which is significantly understaffed compared to the offices in Johnson, Wyandotte and Shawnee counties. Johnson County has the largest election staff with 15 full-time employees and four part-time. Sedgwick County has three full-time and six part-time, the report said.