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Kobach’s phony deadline

It’s no more valid than voter fraud scare tactics

By Walt Braun

In the past decade, fewer than 10 cases of election fraud involving attempts by noncitizens to vote have been reported in Kansas. 

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, perhaps best known for writing Arizona’s punitive anti-illegal immigration law, said his office last year turned up 32 instances in which noncitizens in Kansas were registered to vote. He’s certain there are many more, but doesn’t have the proof. Whether the number is fewer than 10 or Mr. Kobach’s 32, it’s infinitesimal given that Kansas has 1.7 million registered voters.

The greater voter fraud in Kansas involves the scare tactics Mr. Kobach and others are using to change laws to make it more difficult for the poor, the elderly and others to cast ballots. Their problem isn’t citizenship; it’s that they’ve been more likely over the years to vote for Democrats than Republicans.

But back to Mr. Kobach. Never mind that Kansas legislators are scrambling to meet deadlines this week as the 2012 session winds down. And never mind that last session legislators approved a law that beginning next year will require first-time voters to show proof of citizenship at the polls. He’s still insisting, despite repeated rejections, that legislators rush into law a proposal that move the pivotal date to June 15 — about two months hence.

Moving the effective date to June would, as Mr. Kobach points out, be in time for the expected surge in voter registrations before this year’s election. It also, however, could create considerable havoc among county elections officers across the state. Not only would the change create extra work for them, but they would have minimal time to make voters aware of the new provision and give them time to adjust.

Mr. Kobach, as confident as he is persistent, has said on a number of occasions that he has a voter education campaign — and $300,000 in funding for it — ready to go. He seems as confident that the change won’t create any administrative problems as he is that there are considerably more cases of election fraud than his office — which looked high and low for them — has been able to turn up.

If Mr. Kobach has his way, we’ll be more disappointed than surprised. That would be a step backward, not forward, for democracy in this state.

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