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Voter fraud? Not so far

Federal attorney says state has none to prosecute

By Bryan Richardson

It’s hard to fight voter fraud when there isn’t any.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom told the Mercury Tuesday morning that the Secretary of State’s office hasn’t referred one voter fraud case in the past two years for his office to prosecute.

Grissom was in Manhattan to provide opening statements at the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) program at K-State.

The Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act will make proof of citizenship a requirement for anyone registering to vote in Kansas for the first time starting on Jan. 1, 2013.

Grissom said there have been two cases in the past two years, neither one officially prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney Office. He said one involved a deferred prosecution, meaning nothing will happen to the voter as long as she doesn’t vote twice again. The other case was tried at the state level involving a man who paid a $5,000 fine for voting at each of his two properties.

In a Manhattan visit earlier this month, Secretary of State Kris Kobach said there have been 235 cases of voter fraud between 1997 and 2010 mostly involving double voting. He said he believed that for every one confirmed voting fraud, there are at least five voter fraud instances not found.

Kobach’s contention is that a proof of citizenship requirement will keep illegal immigrants away from voting booths and provide fairer elections.

Grissom said there has been a lot of political bluster related to the notion of voter fraud. “If you are undocumented, you don’t want to do anything to draw attention to yourself,” he said. “The last thing you’d want to do is register to vote.”

In general, Grissom said his office doesn’t deal with illegals unless they are being tried for a crime. Immigration issues mostly fall to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Grissom said his office goes for the employers who are hiring the workers, terming that the most cost-effective way of handling the situation. He said this situation is sometimes related to human trafficking.

Kansas has one of seven pilot projects, which receives additional money from the Department of Justice to combat issues of forced labor and prostitution. Without giving specific numbers, Grissom said there have been a number of cases in the just over a year timespan of the increased funding.

Grissom’s primary reason for being in town – the SLATT program – is a part of what he calls the number one priority of law enforcement, which is to combat terrorism. He said the concern isn’t about an elaborate plot like 9/11, but an act committed by a “lone wolf.”

Grissom said law enforcement “can’t fall into the trap” of profiling individuals because of the nationality. “What we don’t want to do is let the terrorists turn us into what they are, which is an intolerant people,” he said.

Kansas has a unique history involving terrorism perpetrators. The World Trade Center bombing of 1993 involved Eyad Ismoil, a Jordanian citizen, who studied at Wichita State University for three years. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing, both served at Fort Riley.

Grissom said the latter incident is why profiling is such a hazardous thing to do. “It was done by two Americans who looked just like me,” Grissom said.

Grissom has been noted for his aggressive approach to fighting crime. There was a 63 percent increase in federal cases filed from fiscal year 2010 to FY11. Grissom attributed this to an outreach to law enforcement, particularly in western Kansas.

Grissom said felons with firearms are a particular point of interest for the attorney’s office. “If they are a convicted felon, call us,” he said. “Based upon their criminal history, they could do 10 years, 20 years and in some instances, all the way to life.”

Grissom said other points of emphasis within the U.S. Attorney’s office are the distribution of child pornography and scams involving Medicare and Medicaid.

He said he was “shocked at the nature and extent” of child pornography distribution on the Internet through peer-to-peer file sharing. He said Kansas filed a record number of cases involving child pornography last year. The state is on pace to exceed that number this year.









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