Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach squared off Thursday in a debate with a Kansas University law professor over the pros and cons of restrictive voter identification laws. Kobach, who was the architect of Kansas’ 2011 law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls and to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register, argued that such laws are needed to prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of Kansas elections. The two men debated before about 100 people, most of them law students, in a lecture auditorium at the KU School of Law in Green Hall. The debate was sponsored by the KU Federalist Society and the Hispanic-American Law Students Association. “Election fraud occurs,” Kobach said. And while the number of such cases may be tiny compared to the total number of ballots cast in any given election, he said it only takes a small number of votes to “steal” an otherwise close election. … But KU law professor Mark Johnson, who teaches courses in elections and campaign finance, argued that the small number of allegedly fraudulent votes does not justify denying other people the right to vote simply because they cannot produce a photo ID or proof of citizenship.
Johnson pointed out that there are more than half a million elected officials in the United States. In Kansas alone, he said, there are more than 3,800 local units of government, including county commissions, city governments, townships, school boards and a wide variety of special-purpose governments such as drainage districts and soil conservation districts, all of which have are governed by boards made up of multiple elected officials.
“And how many examples of voter fraud do you actually have?” Johnson asked. “We don’t have many at all, and in some cases, none at all.”
While the stated reason for enacting such laws is to prevent voter fraud, Johnson argued that they are most prevalent where state governments are controlled by Republicans, and he said there is a wide perception that their purpose is to suppress turnout among people who are more inclined to vote for Democrats.