Yael T. Abouhalkah

Kris Kobach gets sneaky with voting rights of 17,000 Kansans

Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Tuesday continued his bid to make it impossible for many Kansans to vote in local and state elections.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Tuesday continued his bid to make it impossible for many Kansans to vote in local and state elections. The Associated Press

Even a fellow Republican legislator on Tuesday questioned the timing of Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s latest attempt to prevent people from having full voting rights in Kansas.

But the query from GOP Sen. Vicki Schmidt of Topeka was pushed aside as a Kansas board approved a policy that essentially could prevent at least 17,000 Kansans from voting in local or state elections in 2016.

Schmidt wanted to know why Kobach waited until the last possible moment to get the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board to issue its opinion on rules governing the Aug. 2 and Nov. 8 elections.

“Why is it an emergency now?” Schmidt asked.

Her excellent point: Kobach could have brought this issue before the full Legislature when it met in special session in late June. But he didn’t.

That’s an appalling attitude to have toward thousands of Kansas voters, because it denied their elected representatives from taking steps to restore full voting rights to them.

Here’s the problem:

These 17,000 Kansans — and that’s a figure that has likely grown in recent months — did not provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote at motor vehicle offices. By federal law, they should be able to vote in federal elections.

They also should be able to vote in local and state elections, according to a judicial ruling that has basically struck down a Kobach-inspired state law requiring proof of citizenship for voting in Kansas.

However, as Kobach’s representatives said Tuesday, his office is appealing those rulings.

So — gosh — all Kobach is trying to do is keep the law alive during this lengthy process.

As The Wichita Eagle reported: “These voters will receive the same ballot as everyone else, but local election officials will be instructed not to count their votes for state and local races.”

That restrictive point of view understandably upset critics.

Mark Johnson, an attorney representing even more voters whose voting rights have been suspended in the state, said, “Voters will come to the polls not knowing if they can vote. .... If they find out later that their votes didn’t count, it’s certainly going to undermine the credibility of the election process.”

That’s true.

That’s also ironic, because Kobach’s alleged reasons for making it harder to vote are to create more credibility in voting in Kansas.

But his proof of citizenship law has always been a sham. There is no big problem with illegal voters in Kansas, as even the courts have found.

Eventually, the legal system can be expected to strike down the Kansas law and make it possible for people to vote in all elections.

But it might come too late for the 2016 elections, and that’s a problem directly created by Kris Kobach.