Yael T. Abouhalkah

Kris Kobach is incompetent in Kansas and a national disgrace, too

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach became even more of a national embarrassment this week.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach became even more of a national embarrassment this week. AP

The last week has exposed the incompetence of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at home and his standing as a national embarrassment as a public official.

For a guy who wants to wipe out “voter fraud” — which national experts have shown time and time again does not exist — Kobach appears to be involved in his own fraudulent attempts to prevent people from voting.

Right now, Kansas residents are left to wonder who’s minding the shop at the secretary of state’s office as Kobach gallops around the country seeking fortune and fame.

There’s so much to cover, but let’s start with this.

▪ On Friday, Johnson County court records show Kobach’s office suddenly dismissed misdemeanor counts related to unlawful voting against Betty Gaedtke “without intent to refile.”

A jury trial scheduled for Monday was canceled.

This was one of three high-profile criminal cases Kobach announced last October after he got the Kansas Legislature to give him power to prosecute in voter fraud cases.

Now, two of the cases he filed basically have been complete duds, exposing no “fraud” at all.

Last December, Steven Gaedtke, Betty’s husband, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unlawful voting.

Kobach wasted a lot of time and money and got the taxpayers of Kansas nothing in return.

▪ On Thursday, a Daily Kos news report revealed that the voting guides on Kobach’s state website for English readers and for Spanish readers were slightly different, in significant ways.

The Spanish translation of the voters’ guides gave readers incorrect or incomplete information on how long a person had to be registered before an election and what kinds of documents could be used to register.

The bottom line: People who read and counted on the Spanish version of Kobach’s website “may find themselves playing by a different — and in fact, wrong — set of voting guidelines leaving them disenfranchised for the upcoming election.”

Kobach’s offices had acknowledged the errors by Friday, could not say how long they had been on the website and said they were correcting them.

Maybe if Kobach weren’t so eager to fly around America to make it more difficult to vote, he could have spotted the error on his own website a lot earlier — especially since it involves Spanish-speaking people who he often seems to think are “illegal” voters.

▪ The New York Times on Friday printed a long news article that detailed Kobach’s defense of actions taken recently on behalf of the federal Election Assistance Commission.

The story highlighted what appears to be a strong alliance in voter suppression tactics between Kobach and the agency’s executive director, Brian D. Newby, former Johnson County Election Office leader.

‘“It’s trench warfare in the battle of voter suppression,” said Lloyd Leonard, the advocacy director of the League of Women Voters, the leader of the lawsuit against the commission.”

The Star Editorial Board wrote about this problem last week: “Bromance between Kris Kobach and Brian Newby leads to attack on voting rights.”

▪ The Washington Post, in a similar vein, on Wednesday wrote about Kobach’s voter “fraud” crusade, with this headline: “The conservative gladiator from Kansas behind restrictive voting laws.”

Great, there’s even more negative attention for the Sunflower State.

The Post quoted Kobach making this ridiculous comment: “The reason we have to do this is there is a significant problem in Kansas and in the rest of the country of aliens getting on our voting rolls.”

Asked for examples, Kobach provided what he called the “most notorious case” — from 1997!

What a disgraceful performance by a state official who has gotten caught up in his own zeal for publicity and headlines and power.