Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson ruled that 18,000 Kansans had been wrongfully disenfranchised for failing to produce proof-of-citizenship documents when they registered to vote. Robinson’s temporary injunction was upheld when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block it last week, meaning Kansas must register all 18,000 voters for federal elections this year. This is another defeat for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose attempts to combat an imagined epidemic of voter fraud have resulted in no more than four misdemeanor convictions for double voting. Kobach hasn’t prosecuted a single non-citizen for voter fraud, and it’s unlikely that he will (only three such cases were recorded in Kansas between 1995 and 2013). But these paltry numbers haven’t prevented him from scaremongering about the logistics of registering voters for upcoming elections.
Before the 10th Circuit Court issued its decision, Kobach insisted that “massive voter confusion” would result from the registrations. He predicted that election officials “would be required to work more than a thousand hours to manually open and change” voter records. And he thought voters would be baffled when told “that, while they are no longer required to provide proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections, they still must provide proof of citizenship to vote in state and local elections.”
If these bleak projections turn out to be true, Kobach should recognize that his attempts at voter suppression will be to blame. The Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback in April 2011, and it requires Kansans to provide a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport to register to vote. Kobach cited the SAFE Act as his justification for rejecting 18,000 motor voter applications that didn’t include these materials.
Micah Kubic, the executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, notes the hypocrisy of Kobach’s concerns about registering the very people he purged from the voting rolls: “To the extent there is confusion that lies squarely with Secretary Kobach.” How could Kobach be worried about “voter confusion” when he was willing to prevent 18,000 people from voting altogether?