Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has five days before he must decide whether to sign a bill expanding the power of Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) to prosecute voter fraud cases. If Brownback does sign the legislation, which has already passed both chambers of the state legislature, Kobach would be given the power to prosecute voter fraud cases even when, according to critics, local prosecutors had opted against moving forward with those cases. Kobach is a prominent figure in conservative “voter fraud” circles, loudly declaring that voter fraud is rampant and pushing new laws that have the effect of restricting access to voting, especially among voters who tend to favor Democrats. Voting experts, on the other hand, point to studies that show voter fraud is relatively rare with negligible impact on election outcomes.
“I very much worry about Kobach getting additional prosecutorial authority, as he seems to be someone who is willing to make false or exaggerated claims of voter fraud to fit his political narrative,” election law expert Rich Hasen told TPM in an email.
Under current Kansas law, Kobach must refer cases of voter fraud to local prosecutors. Under the bill sitting on Brownback’s desk, those prosecutors would still handle voter fraud cases but Kobach’s office could move criminal charges on its own. “The bill also would upgrade penalties for several voting offenses to felonies from misdemeanors,” according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.