While all eyes were focused last week on the Kansas budget, without fanfare a new law was passed and sent to the governor to sign that turns Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office into the voter fraud police, as well as the state’s attorney general. Lawmakers and the governor took away the power from county district attorneys. This is important because, alas, Kobach got what he wanted and can now go after “criminals” who vote twice and throw the book at them. There’s just one little hitch. To pull off his grandstand play, Kobach will only be able to rustle up a tiny number of offenders. Kobach claims he will go after 100 or so double-voting offenders from the 2014 election. The truth is, it is too soon to know much about the 2014 race. It takes a while for another state to match its voting database with that of Kansas to see whether someone did, indeed, vote in one state and then another. For example, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe does not yet have that 2014 election information and doesn’t expect it for quite some time.
In any case, Howe thinks the estimate of 100 is highly inflated and thinks once Kobach “drills down,” he will find there are few people to prosecute. He bases that on his own experience.
In Johnson County, where a quarter of all Kansans live, in the six years Howe has been in office, he has charged two individuals with double-voting. He put them in a “second chance” diversion program because they — in both cases — had never committed a crime in their lives.
In the overwhelming majority of cases referred to the district attorney, there were mitigating circumstances to explain the voting discrepancies. In all his years on the job, there have been fewer than a dozen cases that came to the attention of Howe’s office.