Guest Commentary

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach: I beg to differ on new voter fraud law

Election worker David Christmore (right) collects the electronic voting card from Matt Harter as his wife Kathryn Harter finishes voting at the Johnson County Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road, in Olathe.
Election worker David Christmore (right) collects the electronic voting card from Matt Harter as his wife Kathryn Harter finishes voting at the Johnson County Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road, in Olathe. The Kansas City Star

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed a bill giving the secretary of state and the attorney general the authority to prosecute voter fraud. Combined with the photo-ID and proof-of- citizenship reforms enacted in 2011, Kansas now has the strongest protections in the country against voter fraud. As secretary of state, I initiated these reforms.

Predictably, Steve Rose complained about them in his recent column (June 7) — a column that was not only poorly researched, but also misleading. Three errors were particularly egregious.

First, Rose claimed that the new law “took away the (prosecutorial) power from county district attorneys.” Had Rose bothered to read the law, he’d know that is false. Under the new law, both county and state officials possess the power to prosecute voter fraud. County attorneys retain the authority to go after voter fraud if they have the resources and the willingness to do so. But all too often, resource constraints or conflicts of interest prevent them from acting. The new law allows state officials to step in. That’s important to ensure that prosecution takes place.

Second, Rose declared that it’s “too soon to know” if a significant amount of double voting occurred in 2014, and that we are waiting for other states to compare their voting records with Kansas’. Rose has no idea what he’s talking about. In fact, Kansas hosts the national program that cross-checks the states’ voter rolls. And we discovered the probable cases of double voting back in February.

Third, Rose claimed that a person who votes early by mail, forgets, and then shows up at the polls to cast a provisional ballot would be guilty of double voting. Once again Rose is wrong. That would not constitute double voting. Kansas law clearly permits that person to cast a provisional ballot. Rose also hyperventilates that I would try to prosecute such a voter who has not broken the law.

Real double voting occurs when a person intentionally votes twice in two different jurisdictions. And it happens with alarming regularity. Indeed, it appears that quite a few non-Kansans saw the media reports about Kansas’ close races for governor and senator last November, and they decided to cast ballots in both Kansas and their states of residence.

Rose similarly brushes aside the problem of aliens voting, dismissing it as unlikely. Again the facts tell a different story. For example, about 50 voted in a referendum in Seward County, Kan., in 1997. Yet, an even bigger problem is legal aliens voting. In 2014, a study by three professors at Old Dominion University and George Mason University estimated that 6.4 percent of aliens voted in the 2008 presidential election, and 2.2 percent voted in the 2010 midterm elections.

That works out to hundreds of thousands of votes, potentially skewing the outcomes of close races across the country. But even a small number would be unacceptable. Every time an alien votes, it effectively cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen. That’s why I pushed for proof of citizenship to register in Kansas.

Seen through Steve Rose-colored lenses, voter fraud is nothing to worry about, and Kansas’ election security reforms were a waste of time. Rose is entitled to his opinion, but he’s not entitled to make up facts to suit his views.

Kris W. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state.

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