Two area lawmakers back Kobach secretary of state candidacy

WICHITA — Two prominent Wichita-area state legislators on Wednesday endorsed the fledgling secretary of state candidacy of former Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita, spoke up for Kobach during a campaign kickoff event that drew about 30 people to a windy and chilly Old Town farmers market square.

“He’s a lifelong Republican; he believes in our cause,” said Watkins. “He’s not somebody that has traveled around and helped the dark side, if you will, and then come home to Kansas and said ‘I’m a Republican,’ because he thinks that’s the only way he’s going to get elected.”

Both Watkins and Masterson spoke enthusiastically about voter-fraud prevention, which Kobach has made the keystone of his campaign.

Kobach is proposing a series of changes in election law including:

– Requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

– Requiring new voter registrants to prove citizenship by showing a birth certificate, passport or naturalization card.

– Purging the voter rolls to eliminate any noncitizens and voters who have moved or died.

– Creating a unit in the secretary of state’s office to investigate election fraud and assist district and county attorneys with prosecutions.

Masterson said he personally witnessed a case of election fraud recently.

“The guy who stood in front of me in line in the last election I was at, they put him aside because they said he’d already voted,” Masterson said. “This man had had … an absentee vote cast in his name, which he didn’t cast.” Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, also a Republican, has said that voter fraud is not the problem Kobach claims it to be.

His spokeswoman said there have been only eight convictions in 10 years, mostly involving people who lived near the Missouri and Colorado borders and voted in two states.

Kobach’s opponent in the race, business advocate and international election observer J.R. Claeys, of Salina, has also made vote fraud prevention a centerpiece of his campaign.

Kobach has been making a series of whistlestops around the state since formally announcing his candidacy on Tuesday.

He’s scheduled to speak Thursday in Salina, Garden City and Lakin. Claeys recently concluded a 15-county speaking tour.