Opinion

Voters, take notice: Kris Kobach failed at the basics of being secretary of state

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach AP

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has again failed at a fundamental part of his job.

The Hutchinson News recently reported that Kobach’s office had failed to produce certification paperwork for voting machines that will be used by hundreds of thousands of voters in November. Kansas law requires the secretary of state’s office to certify voting machines and to keep a copy of the certification on file.

When asked for copies of the records, though, Kobach’s office could only provide two certification notices from the past five years. Five Kansas counties purchased voting equipment within that five-year window, yet there is no record of certification letters for those machines.

Why? “Quite frankly, just shooting from the hip, I don’t know,” Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey told the newspaper.

The secretary of state’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Star.

The lack of paperwork isn’t a fatal problem. The certification notices may have been forgotten, or misfiled or never filed. The federal government also plays a role in voting machine approval.

But Kansas voters should be appalled that the secretary of state’s office is so sloppy with one of its only primary responsibilities — to oversee the state’s elections.

They shouldn’t be surprised, though. Earlier this year, a federal judge found Kobach in contempt of court for refusing to properly update an election guide or send postcards to some voters. Kansans will pay the cost of his inattention.

While the secretary of state is busy chasing lucrative immigration cases across the country — or leading a federal election inquiry that disintegrated after a couple of meetings — his office fails at basic tasks, such as keeping voting machine certification notices on file.

Kansans pondering their choices for governor should take note.

Any governor in Kansas must handle an array of administrative responsibilities, from issuing tax refund checks to overseeing driver’s license offices. It should be the governor’s priority to make sure the executive branch runs efficiently and that records are kept properly.

Kobach seems particularly unsuited to this essential part of the job. When an officeholder cares more about cable TV appearances and radio talk shows than governing, basic services are threatened.

The secretary of state’s office should commit to finding and filing the required voting machine certificates before Election Day. Then, the next secretary of state — and the next governor — should make accurate record-keeping a top priority.

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