Secretary of State Kris Kobach would gain the power to prosecute election fraud under a bill that the Kansas House narrowly gave first-round approval Wednesday. The measure would stiffen penalties for an array of election crimes and add the secretary of state and attorney general to a list of officials allowed to prosecute the offenses. The House expected to take a final vote Thursday. Kobach has pushed to gain the authority since taking office in January 2011 and if approved by the House, the bill would go to Gov. Sam Brownback for his possible signature.
Kobach is the architect of state laws that require all voters to show photo identification at the polls and new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. He contends those policies have curtailed election fraud, but Democratic Rep. Dennis Highberger from Lawrence said in debate on the bill that Kobach has exaggerated the frequency of fraud incidents.
“Up until a few years ago, I had never heard anyone question the fairness of a Kansas election, but that has changed and it’s all due to the extreme partisanship of our current secretary of state,” Highberger said.