Government & Politics

June 24, 2014

Democrat steps up campaign against Kansas secretary of state

Former lawmaker Jean Schodorf blames Kris Kobach for what she sees as suppressing the rights of thousands of would-be voters who couldn’t register because of the law he pushed requiring them to present documents proving they’re citizens. About 18,000 voters have had their registrations set aside because they couldn’t provide necessary documents. Schodorf says they should be allowed to vote.

Democratic Kansas secretary of state candidate Jean Schodorf launched an assault Tuesday on Republican incumbent Kris Kobach, promising to let people vote who can’t prove their citizenship.

Schodorf accused Kobach of suppressing the rights of thousands of would-be voters who couldn’t register because of a law he pushed requiring them to present documents proving they’re citizens.

“This is clear-cut disenfranchisement,” Schodorf said in a statement.

“Not all Kansas citizens are being treated equally. This is government at its worst. And it is wrong.”

Kobach, a former law professor, said Tuesday that election officials aren’t legally empowered to count ballots if the voters haven’t completed their registrations — or to waive the proof-of-citizenship requirement for some prospective voters.

“We do not need a lawless secretary of state,” Kobach said. “It’s shocking that she just thinks she can ignore the law.”

Currently, about 18,000 people across the state have had their voter registrations set aside until they prove their citizenship with a birth certificate or a passport.

Schodorf said she wants to allow those voters to cast ballots until it is proved they have committed voter fraud.

“We are forcing citizens to prove their own innocence,” Schodorf said. “That’s un-American.”

Schodorf also proposed that Kansas stop requiring proof of citizenship from new residents who’ve had valid voter registrations in other states.

She also vowed not to use a tiered system where people registering to vote using the federal registration form will be allowed to vote only in federal elections while those completing registration with the state form can cast ballots in all elections.

She said such steps can be taken administratively, but Kobach said legislators would have to rewrite the proof-of-citizenship law for Schodorf to act on her proposals.

Schodorf, a former Republican in the state Senate, voted for the law requiring proof of citizenship and said she doesn’t regret doing so. But she blamed Kobach for claiming that the new law would be seamless while placing a check on people trying to cheat the system.

“My mistake was trusting Kris Kobach,” Schodorf said at a statehouse news conference. “I gave him a chance, and he blew it.”

Kobach has argued that the law was needed to prevent voter fraud. He’s stressed that no one is disenfranchised because anyone can vote for a full slate of state races if they show proof of citizenship.

He has said that those who registered but didn’t have their citizenship papers could fax or email those documents to the local election office. In some counties, the papers can be photographed and sent by text message to the election office.

Schodorf isn’t the only candidate in the secretary of state race. Kobach also is facing a challenge from Lawrence Republican Scott Morgan in the primary. Morgan served as a staffer to former Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

To reach Brad Cooper, call 816-234-7724 or send email to bcooper@kcstar.com.

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