Schodorf proposes changes to voting rules; Kobach counters
By Bryan Lowry
By Bryan Lowry
The Wichita Eagle
TOPEKA (MCT) — Suspended voters should be allowed to vote until the state repairs its current system, which has left 18,000 registrants with an incomplete status, said Jean Schodorf, former state senator and candidate for secretary of state.
Schodorf unveiled her voter plan at a news conference Tuesday in the Capitol's rotunda. Speaking into a microphone that buzzed like a McDonald's drive-thru, Schodorf called the state's voting system a mess, despite voting for the proof of citizenship requirement as a member of the Senate in 2012.
"I don't regret voting for the law as promised," she said, contending that she supports fair and secure elections. She accused Secretary of State Kris Kobach of deceiving lawmakers about the law's impact during the initial push to pass it. "My mistake was trusting Kris Kobach," she said. "I gave him a chance and he blew it."
Schodorf, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, said that the 18,000 registrants blocked from voting should be able to participate in the state's August and November primaries.
Long term, she said, the state should accept the federal registration form, which includes an affidavit of citizenship, for state and local elections.
She also said that Kansas should accept voters registered in other states when they move here without extra hurdles. And she said that the federal REAL ID program, which enables driver's licenses and other state-issued ID to be accepted by the federal government for official purposes, should be used by Kansas as a less-burdensome method of proof of citizenship.
"Kris Kobach has not proven there is fraud. He is just keeping people from voting," Schodorf said. "Our American values are that we are innocent until proven guilty. That's the difference."
Kobach called Schodorf's plan "a recipe for voter fraud."
"She wants to go to the bad old days when it was easy for aliens to vote. Every time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen," he said in a phone call.
Kobach said that the state presented 20 cases of illegal immigrants registering to vote between 2006 and 2009 in federal court. He estimates that it is more common than the identified cases.
"It's exactly like speeding. Just because the police catch 100 speeders doesn't mean that's how many there were. There were probably 10 times that many," Kobach said.
Kobach said it would be administratively impossible to discount a vote cast by an illegal voter after it has been cast.
Kobach's opponents, Schodorf and Republican challenger Scott Morgan, have repeatedly said that the number of fraudulent voters is dwarfed by the 18,000 potential voters stuck in incomplete status.
They say Kobach has administrated the law poorly; he says it has been a success.
"I'd say it's working perfectly well," he said. "Right now 81 percent of the people who have registered since the law into effect have completed their registration from sending in proof of citizenship. Only 19 percent are taking their time, but any one of those people can do it at home from their couch this evening."
Schodorf repeatedly called Kobach an "extremist" during her speech. She compared voter suspensions to segregation in the Jim Crow South and accused Kobach of having connections to white supremacist groups.
She confirmed that she was referring to Kobach's legal work for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, better known as FAIR, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"It's an outrageous accusation and it's false," Kobach said at the suggestion FAIR was a racist organization. "And furthermore I would simply say this, when a person starts calling her opponent names, that's a sure indicator that she lost the arguments."
"Anyone who wants to secure our borders, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a racist. It's such a leftwing crank organization," he said, pointing out that the organization has also made the accusation about CNN anchor Lou Dobbs.
Schodorf would not explicitly say if she thought there were racial motivations behind the proof of citizenship policy or whether she was accusing Kobach of racism.
"I don't know what his motivations are, but there are citizens in this state who will never be able to vote under this policy," she said.
"This is part of his background and his belief that not all people should" vote, she said.
Schodorf said older Kansans, young people and women had been discriminated against by the law. She did not add racial minorities to that list when pressed, despite her earlier references.
Kobach said that if Schodorf considers him an extremist for supporting proof of citizenship, she also considers most Kansans extremists.
A March poll by Rasmussen Reports, a conservative-leaning polling company, found that 78 percent of Kansas voters support the policy.
"The law is completely race-neutral," Kobach said. "To me the argument is almost racist in nature to say that because of a person's ethnicity he's going to have a harder time reaching into those files and pulling out his birth certificate than a person of a different race."