Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is headed to Capitol Hill this afternoon to tell lawmakers he fears the President’s action protecting millions of young immigrants and their parents from deportation will lead to a spike in voter fraud. “It’s a very real problem of aliens registering to vote, sometimes unwittingly,” Kobach told ThinkProgress earlier this week. “They go to get a drivers’ license, and the person at the DMV says, ‘Hey, would you like to register to be an organ donor and register to vote?’ So some are given the misimpression by the clerk that they are entitled to register to vote. We have plenty of cases like this. And if you increase the population of people who are not US citizens getting drivers licenses, it necessarily follows that these errors that keep happening would increase as well.” Citing what he calls President’s Obama’s “recent controversial en-mass deferred action,” Kobach is pushing a policy he has advocated since long before the President’s executive order: requiring proof of citizenship for everyone registering to vote, even though Kansas’ and Arizona’s attempts to do this have been ruled illegal. Continuing his argument that undocumented people are “unwittingly” committing felony-level voter fraud, Kobach told ThinkProgress that his policy is really about keeping immigrants safe.
“If you want to protect immigrants who are following the law, you want to put a screen on the front end that makes sure only US citizens are being registered to vote,” he said. Ohio Secretary of State John Husted (R), who is backing Kobach at Thursday’s hearing, has gone further, writing a letter to the President warning of intentional fraud: “The recent executive actions dramatically expand the opportunities for illegal voter registrations in Ohio and other states by non-citizen voters who have valid forms of identification and who willingly or negligently affirm their eligibility to vote.”
But recent reports of non-citizen voting have been soundly debunked, while past investigations in Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio turned up only a tiny handful of cases — less than one-thousandth of a percent.
Still, Kobach is waging a multi-year battle with the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to allow states to add extra requirements — like proof of citizenship — to the standard federal form for voter registration. Civil rights groups like the Election Protection Network say doing so would “impact all voters, but fall more significantly on traditionally disenfranchised groups like poor, minority and elderly voters,” who are eligible voters but lack the proper documents. In Kobach’s own state, the policy prevented thousands of eligible citizens from casting a ballot in this past election.