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Kobach’s approach is counterproductive

Voting should be made easier, not harder

By The Mercury

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says that checking for voter fraud is simply “good government.”

In the narrow sense, he’s right. In the broader sense, though, his frantic search for voter fraud appears to be a matter of misplaced priorities and a ridiculous waste of time, at best. At worst, it’s calculated political opportunism.

Mr. Kobach’s search recently led him to commandeer the Riley County Police Department to investigate five local people for possible voter fraud. RCPD Director Brad Schoen told The Mercury last week he didn’t think much of that. He also said he knew immediately that three of the names were of longtime local residents who were obviously entitled to vote. The other two turned out to be citizens of Canada and Germany who had done nothing wrong. One actually stopped trying to register to vote, as appropriate.

This all stems from Mr. Kobach’s crusade to find voter fraud, which he claimed in his campaign was a serious problem despite the lack any credible evidence of it. Mr. Kobach, a Republican, got the GOP-controlled Legislature to pass a bill last year to require courts to turn over questionnaires filled out by potential jurors who identified themselves as non-citizens. That was how the five Riley Countians came under the microscope.

There have been no cases of fraud uncovered yet statewide based on those records, Mr. Kobach said.

His office is also coordinating efforts among several states to check against double-voting across state lines. That’s basically a database effort, and it’s hard to object to that.

The thing is, all of this is really beside the point. The bigger issue in America — and Kansas, and Manhattan, for that matter — is that voter registration and voter participation are abysmally low.

Mr. Kobach’s efforts represent considerable effort at the state level — and even with local police now — to solve what is essentially not a problem. In fact, his efforts generally are making it harder to vote. What we should be focusing on here are things that increase voting.

All the time and effort? How about putting that toward other things the office does or could do better? Voter education and get-out-the-vote campaigns, among other things. We’re not here at the moment to say what those should be.

We’re simply trying to point out that getting the cops to go on wild goose chases for voter fraud does not pass the common-sense test.

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