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Kobach’s spin isn’t selling well

By Walt Braun

We suspect Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is right — at least in his assertion that if the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee wanted to meet again this session, it could.

But state Sen. Terrie Huntington, the Mission Hills Republican who chairs the committee, is hardly abusing her authority in deciding not to schedule another meeting. As she noted in an Associated Press story, last Thursday’s meeting was the panel’s last scheduled meeting of the session.

And though Mr. Kobach doesn’t seem to recognize it, the Legislature doesn’t revolve around his priorities, including his urgency in solving a problem that barely exists in Kansas — voter fraud.

The Legislature last year passed a law that, effective Jan. 1, 2013, requires people who register to vote for the first time to show proof of citizenship. That was a victory of sorts for Mr. Kobach, though he wanted it to take effect sooner. This session, he has pursued efforts to make the law effective June 15, arguing that the law should take effect before the anticipated surge in registration for the November presidential election.

One issue involves whether a $40 million computer upgrade in the state Department of Motor Vehicles that could help administer the proof-of-citizenship rule would be completed in time; Mr. Kobach says the law could take effect in June even without the complete upgrade.

His stated purpose is to prevent voter fraud in the form of illegal immigrants and other noncitizens who might try to register and vote.

Trouble is, there isn’t much of that in Kansas, as even Mr. Kobach’s office has acknowledged. His office said it turned up 32 noncitizens who were registered to vote last year — out of 1.7 million registered voters. What’s more, in the last decade, there have been fewer than 10 cases reported in which a noncitizen tried to vote.

Yes, one instance of voter fraud is too many. But the small number of actual cases should be weighed against the potential difficulties the law can cause for eligible voters.  Opponents of the law contend that this law, like other voter ID laws being enacted or pursued in a majority of states, is intended not just to address voter fraud but to discourage voting by students, minorities, the elderly and the poor — citizens who are among blocs that are as likely as not to vote for Democrats.

Mr. Kobach’s assurances to the contrary are not persuasive.

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