The Garden City Telegram
5/11/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Power grab

County attorneys can handle voter fraud that may exist.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach hasn't been shy about cooking up strategies to address problems that don't exist.

After all, he pushed for a Voter ID requirement when there was no proof of a voter fraud problem, and brought more unwanted attention to the state by getting on board with the "birther" nonsense surrounding President Barack Obama's citizenship.

And now, he wants to do the work of county attorneys in prosecuting election fraud.

Kobach — a key player in a national anti-immigrant movement who pursues policies that disproportionately disenfranchise minorities — would have us believe we've fallen prey to widespread voter fraud.

The conservative Republican also claims county attorneys don't have the time or resources to handle such cases, even though there's nothing to suggest prosecutors need help in that regard.

If county attorneys were bogged down, they would speak out. And they haven't.

Local prosecutors also could turn to the state's chief law enforcement officer — the attorney general — for an assist.

What makes Kobach's request all the more absurd is that in a state with about 1.7 million registered voters, only a handful of cases related to reports of non-citizens voting or attempting to vote have materialized in the past 10 years.

Former Finney County Attorney John Wheeler had to handle just two cases involving election fraud in the past decade — and that's in a county with one of the higher percentages of minorities in Kansas.

Rather than change a system that works, lawmakers should remember voters put county attorneys in place to prosecute crimes in their communities.

They should let those prosecutors do their jobs and resist Kobach's latest power grab.

Of course, there's also reason to believe Kobach — with aspirations for higher political office — is only pandering to the anti-immigrant crowd with his latest crusade.

He would better serve Kansas by putting personal politics aside, and focusing on legitimate challenges of his office: getting more people to the polls, for example.

Voter turnout remains abysmal. Of course, that's not a high priority for a secretary of state determined to waste time on problems that don't exist.