In fall 2010, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach held a press conference alleging that dead people were voting in the state. He singled out Alfred K. Brewer as a possible zombie voter. There was only one problem: Brewer was very much alive. The Wichita Eagle found the 78-year-old working in his front yard. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” Brewer said. Since his election in 2010, Kobach has been the leading crusader behind the myth of voter fraud, making headline-grabbing claims about the prevalence of such fraud with little evidence to back it up. Now he’s about to become a lot more powerful. On Monday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill giving Kobach’s office the power to prosecute voter-fraud cases if county prosecutors decline to do so and upgrading such charges from misdemeanors to felonies. Voters could be charged with a felony for mistakenly showing up at the wrong polling place. No other secretary of state in the country has such sweeping prosecutorial power, says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
Kansas: Brownback signs election bill, gives Kobach prosecutorial authority | The Wichita Eagle The Wichita Eagle
Gov. Sam Brownback has officially given Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute. The governor signed SB 34 at a ceremony Monday, granting the secretary of state the authority to prosecute voter fraud. Kobach, who crafted and pushed for the legislation, said his office has already begun preliminary work on investigations and said he had identified more than 100 possible cases of double voting. He said his office has started requesting voters’ signatures from counties as evidence.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has five days before he must decide whether to sign a bill expanding the power of Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) to prosecute voter fraud cases. If Brownback does sign the legislation, which has already passed both chambers of the state legislature, Kobach would be given the power to prosecute voter fraud cases even when, according to critics, local prosecutors had opted against moving forward with those cases. Kobach is a prominent figure in conservative “voter fraud” circles, loudly declaring that voter fraud is rampant and pushing new laws that have the effect of restricting access to voting, especially among voters who tend to favor Democrats. Voting experts, on the other hand, point to studies that show voter fraud is relatively rare with negligible impact on election outcomes.
How disappointing that in a 2,866-word State of the State address quoting the Kansas Constitution’s statement that “all political power is inherent in the people,” Gov. Sam Brownback failed to speak up for the 20,000 people in Kansas whose voter registrations are stalled. At least the U.S. Election Assistance Commission mentioned them in its ruling Friday. Kansas, Arizona and Georgia wanted the commission to provide an instruction on the federal voter-registration form regarding their requirements that those registering in their states provide proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or passport. Since the Kansas law went into effect in January 2013, more than 20,100 applicants have seen their voter registrations put on a suspense list for lack of paperwork. The EAC staff ruling denying the states’ requests said Congress specifically considered and rejected requiring such documentation when passing the National Voter Registration Act in 1993. “Such burdens do not enhance voter participation, and they could result in a decrease in overall registration of eligible citizens,” the ruling said. It pointed to Kansas’ lengthening list of applicants placed in suspense status, saying the requirements risk discouraging voter-registration drives.
Democrats in the Kansas House and Senate opened the legislative session Monday by introducing a bill intended to counter obstacles to registration and voting raised by the state’s proof-of-citizenship mandate. Rep. Jim Ward and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Wichita Democrats, proposed the Protection Against Voter Suppression Act. The bill adds a provision similar to federal law that would permit Kansans to vote after signing an affidavit stating they are a U.S. citizen. False statements could be prosecuted as a felony crime. The target of the legislation is a proof-of-citizenship law championed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, adopted by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Kansas: Legislature unlikely to change proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration | Lawrence Journal World
A proposal to change the new state law that has put at risk 15,000 Kansans’ ability to vote was rejected in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday and probably will not be revived during the special session. Crowd gathered for rally on Tuesday urging the Kansas Legislature to repeal a proof of citizenship requirement to register to vote. As the Legislature started a special session to fix a constitutionally flawed murder statute, state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, tried to pass a provision to eliminate the new state requirement that Kansans must show proof of U.S. citizenship with a document such as a birth certificate or passport when they register to vote. Since the proof of citizenship requirement took effect Jan. 1, the voter registration applications of approximately 15,000 Kansans, including 600 in Douglas County, have been placed in “suspense,” which means they aren’t completed.
If Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt feel a responsibility to safeguard voting rights, Kansans wouldn’t know it from their comments Monday related to the state’s 8-month-old requirement of proof of citizenship to register to vote. The voter registrations of nearly 14,000 Kansans, including more than 2,400 in Sedgwick County, are “in suspense” because they haven’t provided the necessary birth certificates, passports or other documents – or they have, to the driver’s license office where they registered, and the papers just haven’t been passed along to election officials. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had promised lawmakers that the document sharing would be seamless. When Brownback was asked Monday about the problem, he acknowledged an interest in the voting booth being “open for people” but said, according to the Lawrence Journal-World: “It’s in the secretary of state’s purview.” He also said: “We’ll watch and review the process as it’s coming forward, but there is a constitutional officer that’s in charge of that.”
Kansas officialdom is strangely blasé about the growing number of voters in “suspended” status, meaning they have filled out registration forms but won’t be able to cast an official ballot unless they provide proof of U.S. citizenship. The numbers are approaching 15,000, and the American Civil Liberties Union has notified officials of a possible lawsuit. Kansas risks notoriety as a voter suppression state. But Gov. Sam Brownback, when asked about the problem, said voting is the secretary of state’s responsibility. Brownback’s Department of Revenue, which runs the vehicle offices where citizens can also register to vote, says it doesn’t plan to change its procedures, even as voter experiences suggest the procedures might be part of the problem.
Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday didn’t seem to want to get involved in the controversy over the 13,000 Kansans whose voter registrations are up in the air. When asked about it, Brownback, a Republican, referred to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican. “It’s in the secretary of state’s purview,” Brownback said. Brownback acknowledged an interest in the voting booth being “open for people.” “We’ll watch and review the process as it’s coming forward, but there is a constitutional officer that’s in charge of that.” Again, that’s a reference to Kobach.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach conceded Thursday that Kansas won’t require first-time voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year’s elections because the Senate’s top leader effectively killed the proposal. Kobach, who pushed the proposal, declared it dead after Senate President Steve Morris assigned the legislation to a hostile committee. The House passed the bill Wednesday, and Kobach had hoped Morris would bypass a committee review, making an up-or-down vote possible in the Senate to determine whether the bill went to Gov. Sam Brownback.
A bitter split between conservative and moderate Republicans has kept the Kansas Senate from agreeing on a proposal for redrawing their districts, and the delay threatens to create administrative headaches ahead of this year’s primary election. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is involved in the debate, as is the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce. House Republican leaders are frustrated enough with the Senate’s inability to produce a new political map that they’re preparing to intervene, which would break with decades of tradition. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections official, warns that if redistricting issues aren’t settled quickly enough, the state will have to push back its June 1 candidate filing deadline. Also, county officials could violate a federal law governing the distribution of ballots to military personnel overseas.