Vote folly

8/13/2013

Kobach makes absurd pitch in targeting select voters.

Kobach makes absurd pitch in targeting select voters.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is peddling a new legal argument that would be laughable if it weren't so offensive, especially coming from the state office traditionally associated with promoting voting and increasing turnout. It's that Kansas could create a second class of voters unfit to participate in anything but presidential and congressional elections.

Kobach sketched out the nutty idea recently, as Democrats said they would like to revisit the proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration during the Sept. 3 special session Gov. Sam Brownback has called to rewrite the Hard 50 sentencing law. Taking up the voting law seems unlikely, given the strong support for it in the strongly Republican Legislature and the need to keep the $35,000-a-day session brief. But Democrats including Wichita state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and state Rep. Jim Ward have two well-founded concerns.

They suspect that, despite Kobach's assurances, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Arizona's proof-of-citizenship law means Kansas' law is unconstitutional, too. ...

The Democrats also are unhappy that because of the proof-of-citizenship requirement, which went into effect Jan. 1, the voter registrations of nearly 14,000 Kansans, including more than 2,400 in Sedgwick County, are "in suspense." The state says the wannabe new voters are in limbo because they haven't provided the birth certificates, passports or other documents necessary to satisfy the requirement. But that doesn't square with news reports that some of those "in suspense" already had presented proof of citizenship at the driver's license office or had voted in the past.

Whether the roadblock is missing documentation or bureaucratic error, the state is standing in the way of these Kansans' right to vote — all in the name of solving a voter-fraud problem that has amounted to a handful of cases a year too weak to lead to convictions. ...

So how does the state's chief elections officer respond to the imminent threat to voting rights posed by the proof-of-citizenship law? By saying his staff is "assessing" whether Kansas will accept the federal voter-registration form (which only requires someone to sign a sworn statement saying he is a citizen) to vote in federal elections and require a form with the state's higher standard of proof of citizenship to vote in races for state and local offices. ...

We know Kobach loves nothing better than a fight over states' rights, but his staffers should not be wasting a minute on his latest folly.

-- The Wichita Eagle

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