Kris Kobach’s bill on straight-ticket voting in Kansas is not helpful

Kansas legislators must not applaud Kris Kobach’s voting proposals.
Kansas legislators must not applaud Kris Kobach’s voting proposals. The Associated Press

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voting proposals have always been about marginalizing certain citizens and smoothing the way for Republican candidates.

This year’s crop of ideas, a couple of which unfortunately are moving in the Legislature, is more of the same.

The House Elections Committee has recommended that the full House pass a Kobach bill to restore straight-ticket voting in Kansas.

Combine that with a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback, which Kobach supports, to move elections for local and judicial races from the spring to the fall, and you can see where this is headed. Brownback and Kobach would love nothing more than to engineer a partisan takeover of local races by creating long ballots with a tempting option at the top to simply vote the ticket.

Kobach, who has the gift of saying astounding things with a straight face, told the committee he thought voting in Kansas should be more convenient. This, remember, is the official who sent 20,000 citizens into “suspended” voting status last year, forcing them to jump through hoops even if they registered properly under federal law.

There is a reason most states, including Kansas, have gotten rid of straight ticket voting. It encourages laziness and rigs the process if one party has a big advantage, as Republicans do in Kansas.

The House committee also approved a Kobach bill to prevent a candidate from taking his or her name off of a ballot except in the event of death, which would have to occur by Sept. 1 if the election was in November.

This is in response to the ruckus last year when Democrat Chad Taylor, a candidate for U.S. Senate, decided to remove his name from the ballot. Kobach protested vociferously, as the move was expected to aid Greg Orman, an independent candidate in the race. Courts said it was acceptable, though. Kobach is now apparently seeking to have the final say.

Such an uncompromising measure is unnecessary. Candidates rarely withdraw, and most do so for good reasons, such as health concerns. Barring an exit could make some high quality candidates reluctant to enter.

As he has most years since he’s been in office, Kobach is asking lawmakers for the authority to prosecute alleged election-related crimes. That duty is now handled mostly by local prosecutors. Legislators have declined Kobach’s request so far and they should continue to do so. His agenda is too suspect to be trusted with prosecutorial duties.