I am a white male, but most Americans are not. For many, even everyday encounters with public authority, law enforcement for example, can be terrifying. This makes me especially alarmed about a new law giving Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute voter fraud, passed by the Kansas Legislature last month in the frenzy of last-minute legislation. The law is strange. First, because prosecution power is typically vested in federal authorities, state attorneys general, and local county prosecutors and district attorneys, not secretaries of state. Second, even Kobach himself cannot find voter fraud in Kansas. For example, his office publicly named a Wichita voter who they claimed was deceased. Wichita Eagle reporters found the man raking leaves in his yard. … Kobach’s new law may have chilling effects on voting.
Voters are confused, as are poll workers, many of whom receive little training when the laws change or relevant court rulings are issued. For example, a colleague of mine had to prove to skeptical Douglas County poll workers that his passport is an acceptable photo identification for a voter. If poll workers do not understand these laws, how can voters? Under this new law, a voter facing legitimate confusion about identification, change of address or polling place may fear prosecution for an innocent mistake, even if it is Kobach’s mistake.