Kansas’ next secretary of state has an opportunity to chart a better course than his predecessor.

The question is whether Scott Schwab will reverse the damage caused by fellow Republican Kris Kobach, who spent inordinate time in office on anti-immigrant policy pursuits.

Kobach used the bogus claim of noncitizens voting in droves in his successful push for backward change, to include proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements that deliberately disenfranchised many poor residents, young adults, minorities, seniors, disabled and other prospective voters unlikely to support his side’s ultraconservative agenda.

Voter ID and proof-of-citizenship policies made Kansas a model of voter suppression with tens of thousands of prospective voters deterred in recent elections. The American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged the proof-of-citizenship requirement, which was ruled unconstitutional.

It all no doubt hurt Kobach in the governor’s race. Democrat Laura Kelly defeated him with surprising ease, which Schwab should consider as he moves into Kobach’s former post.

On that note, one Kobach-endorsed program the new secretary of state should reject would be Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck, a system implemented to identify voters registered in multiple states. The program run and funded by Kansas has been marred with problems in exposing many Kansas voters’ partial Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information.

In defending Kobach in a related lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the secretary of state shouldn't be held personally liable for the release of sensitive personal information. While that may be true, it’s still time to dump Crosscheck.

Beyond the program’s inaccuracy and security woes, studies show it also creates far more potential to deter legal voters than prevent double voting — raising legitimate concern over Crosscheck serving as yet another voter suppression tool.

Kansas instead should rely on the multistate Electronic Registration Information Center that’s proven to effectively remove names of people registered to vote in multiple states without compromising personal information.

In his run for office, Schwab still praised Crosscheck, in spite of its obvious shortcomings. He also wrongly endorsed appeal of the court decision striking down Kansas' proof-of-citizenship requirement to register to vote.

Schwab would best serve the state by abandoning those harmful stands — and vowing to discontinue every strategy Kobach used to undermine voter rights.

 

GateHouse Kansas