The Kansas Legislature seems poised to make another mistake, one that’s preventable and whose motivation stems from ideology and ambition. Lawmakers are about to give Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach the authority to investigate and prosecute voter fraud.
Both houses have passed bills to that effect, and about all that remains is for negotiators from the two chambers to settle their differences.
This bill is Mr. Kobach’s idea. He has sought the authority to prosecute voter fraud since becoming secretary of state, but until this year had been stymied by Democrats and moderate Republicans. He’s contended that his office is best positioned to investigate and prosecute voter fraud, including double-voting, and that both the state attorney general’s office and county prosecutors are too busy to do it themselves.
He also argues that voter fraud is a greater problem than most Kansans realize, and that many cases aren’t being pursued.
The facts suggest otherwise; they suggest that voter fraud is rare in Kansas. In the last decade, there have been but a handful of cases in which people who are not citizens have tried to vote or individuals have attempted to cast more than one ballot That’s in a state with about 1.7 million voters.
Still, Mr. Kobach thinks his office would most likely have the expertise in investigating allegations of election fraud. “We just want to make sure that somebody with prosecutorial expertise goes after these cases.”
So do we. Thus, as the law now provides, if he or anyone in his office knows of or suspects any individuals of voter fraud, he ought to convey that information to the attorney general’s office or to prosecutors in the counties where the fraud is alleged to have occurred. After all, individuals in those offices surely have “the prosecutorial expertise” to go after those cases. And though many county prosecutors are indeed busy, we doubt they fail to prosecute legitimate cases of voter fraud. Any who do should be run out of office.
State Rep. Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican, opposes Mr. Kobach’s proposal. He summed up the situation well in an interview with the Garden City Telegram. “We have 105 county attorneys and an attorney general… I don’t think we need to continue to spread prosecutorial authority to elected officials in the state.”
In short, in expanding the powers of an office run by a conservative zealot, lawmakers are not only solving a problem that doesn’t exist, they are creating problems they’d rather not think about.