Category Archives: Voting

New voting rules hindering elections

voterid“The state just continues to add complexity and confusion to elections,” Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew complained. He said that the number of rules added to elections over the past several years “is mind-boggling” and hinders elections, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. He also disagreed with Kansas Republican Party chairman Kelly Arnold that “the primary election belongs to the political party, not to the general public.” If that is true, Shew said, should the political parties run and pay for those elections? “It would save our county about $130,000 to not run the August election,” he said.

Pro-con on Kansas-Arizona voter-registration ruling

votingaug12In a big victory for election integrity, Arizona and Kansas – led by their secretaries of state, Ken Bennett and Kris Kobach – have obtained an order from a federal judge allowing them to enforce their proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration. In a decision issued on March 19, Judge Eric Melgren of the federal district court of Kansas found that the refusal of federal election authorities to add state-specific instructions to the federal voter-registration form notifying residents of Arizona and Kansas that they have to provide proof that they are U.S. citizens to complete their registration is “unlawful and in excess of its statutory authority.” This is a huge loss for the Obama administration, as well as liberal advocacy groups that apparently want to make it easy for noncitizens to illegally register and vote in our elections. There is no question that is happening – there have been numerous cases all over the country. This decision should provide momentum to other states seeking to pass a similar requirement. For anyone interested in ensuring the integrity of our election process, this was a commonsense decision. – Hans A. von Spakovsky, National Review

Republican lawmakers who work to impose higher bars to voting – either through proof-of-citizenship or voter ID laws – are well aware that many of those otherwise-eligible voters who struggle to come up with the required documents, which include a birth certificate, passport or driver’s license, are more likely to vote Democratic. In recent months, it seemed that judges were beginning to see through the pretense of such laws, whose proponents insist they are necessary to protect “election integrity” despite the lack of any significant evidence that voter fraud of any kind exists. Nevertheless, Judge Melgren accepted at face value the claim by Kansas and Arizona that only “concrete proof of citizenship” can allow them to determine whether a voter is eligible. Republican-controlled state legislatures could respond to their aging, shrinking voter base by appealing to a wider range of voters. Instead, they write off entire segments of the public and then try to keep them from the polls, under the guise of battling fraud and illegal immigration. The courts have more than enough evidence by now, and they should see this ruse for what it is. – New York Times

Let locals control timing of local elections

votingboothAt least a Kansas Senate committee decided against placing municipal and school board elections on the same ballot as state and federal elections. But in voting to move local elections from the spring to August and November of odd-numbered years, the Senate panel dismissed the wishes of local officials, who overwhelmingly oppose the change. Why is this the Legislature’s concern? What happened to local control?

GOP wants another barrier to voting

votingnoFirst Republicans in the Legislature passed a law making it harder for people to vote and to register to vote. Now they want to prohibit people from changing their party affiliations from June 1 through Sept. 1. As with their claims of voter fraud, there is no evidence that switching parties is a problem that requires legislative action. Not surprisingly, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach backs the change. His likely Democratic challenger this year, former State Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita, opposes it. “Our state government should not use its power to limit an individual’s right to vote in an election because one party or another is losing voters, or because they don’t like the way citizens are voting,” she said. “That is not democracy.”

Secretaries of state shouldn’t be overtly partisan

kobachcandidKansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was mentioned in a National Public Radio report on “a trend of overtly partisan figures running for a job designed to be neutral when it comes to election administration” – though he defended himself and other officeholders. “The secretaries range on the political spectrum and have policy differences, but I would vouch for every secretary of state to be able to have fair election results,” he said. But Art Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University, sees the politicization of the secretary of state office as “a very good symbol of how low our politics have sunk.”

So they said

kobachcandid“I think that’s actually an extraordinarily high percentage.” – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (in photo), telling a Senate panel that 72 percent of Kansans (52,000 people) who tried to register to vote last year met the proof-of-citizenship requirement and completed their registrations

“If we didn’t have the requirement it would be 100 percent.” – Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka

“Happy Kansas Day! Celebrating 153 years of not being Missouri.” – U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, in a Wednesday tweet

“Uhh, stay classy @RepLynnJenkins I’m sorry you feel the need to dis my state to celebrate yours! #stoptheborderwar” – Tweeted reply from a Kansas City, Mo., teacher

GOP state convention gets even more conservative

gopvoteThe crowd at the state GOP convention in Wichita last weekend “was more conservative than it has been in decades,” observed Martin Hawver of Hawver’s Capitol Report. State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, announced that he is challenging U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, in the August GOP primary, claiming that Jenkins is too moderate. The biggest question of the convention was whether former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt would announce a challenge to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. Tiahrt is still thinking it over, Hawver said. Meanwhile, GOP insiders are arguing about whether a small straw poll means anything. The poll taken at a Kansas Young Republicans business meeting resulted in a 17-17 tie between Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and challenger Milton Wolf.

Brownback has duty to defend voting rights

votingaug12It was disappointing but not surprising that Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t mention in his State of the State address last week the 20,000 Kansans who have had their voting rights suspended. Brownback has tried to back away from this issue, leaving it to Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the courts to resolve. On Friday, staff at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission rejected Kobach’s request to allow Kansas to go beyond federal rules and require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. As governor – and as the person who signed the law that created this mess – Brownback has a duty to defend the voting rights of Kansas citizens.

Schmidt’s gun opinion confusing

gun3Is concealed-carry welcome at Kansas polling places? Well, it depends. According to an opinion issued Wednesday by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whatever the rule in a building the rest of the year will prevail on Election Day, except in the unlikely event that a county rents an entire private building as a polling place. “The use of real property as a polling place does not transform the nature of that property for the purposes of the (Personal and Family Protection Act),” he wrote. But in answering Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s question that way, Schmidt likely has sowed confusion for voters and local election officials. It would be better if Kansas did as Texas and Florida have done, and specifically barred guns at polling places.

Two-tier voting scheme could be costly

votingLike Kansas, Arizona is pursuing a two-tiered voting scheme in which those who registered to vote following the federal rules (which don’t require proof of citizenship) would only be able to vote in federal races, not also in state and local elections. In addition to being confusing and unfair, such a scheme would increase costs. Election officials in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous, estimated that it would cost at least an additional $250,000, and probably more, to conduct two-tiered primary and general elections in 2014.

Kobach downplays suspended voters

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach downplayed the more than 17,000 Kansans who have had their voter registrations placed in “suspense” because they didn’t provide proof of citizenship, suggesting that many of them are just procrastinating, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. “If a lot of people aren’t planning on voting until the next even-numbered (year) election … they may be thinking ‘what’s the hurry?’” Kobach said at a Rotary Club meeting in Lawrence. He also dismissed as out of date a 2006 national study that found that as many as 11 percent of U.S. adults don’t have a government-issued photo ID, and he downplayed the 532 ballots that were not counted in the 2012 general election because the voters did not bring photo ID to the polls. Yet Kobach portrays a handful of allegations of voter fraud during the past decade as an epidemic requiring extreme measures.

Schodorf criticizing proof-of-citizenship law she voted for

Jean Schodorf, the Wichita Republican turned Democrat who is challenging Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is making her signature issue the 17,000-plus voter registrations “in suspense” because of the law requiring proof of citizenship to register – and no wonder. It’s appalling that so many would-be voters are being blocked by the new document requirement, and that Kobach is so unconcerned about the problem. But Schodorf has a less-than-clear message to convey about the law, which she voted for as a state senator. “My constituents wanted it. I don’t like the bill. I voted for my constituents,” she told Associated Press. Another bit of confusing nuance, as noted by AP’s John Hanna: “Schodorf said she’d support efforts by legislators to repeal the law, but she also said that she’d work to make its administration go more smoothly.”

One area ballot uncounted due to voting law

Before local elections were held Oct. 8 on proposed funding projects, more than 100 voter registrations in Derby and nearly a dozen in Colwich were “in suspense” for lack of proof-of-citizenship documents, among more than 18,000 such registrations statewide. The individuals had been contacted multiple times, according to the Sedgwick County Election Commissioner’s Office. In the end, according to Deputy Election Commissioner Sandra Gritz, “there was only one provisional ballot due to lack of a citizenship document” in the area elections – meaning the would-be voter’s ballot didn’t count.

Washington Post lashes out at Kansas’ two-tiered voting plan

The Washington Post editorial board denounced GOP officials in Kansas and Arizona for “harking back to the days of Jim Crow” by moving to “adopt a two-tiered voting system, the effect of which would be to disenfranchise thousands of voters.” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach seeks to skirt the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision barring states from requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration; he has proposed that those who register in Kansas using the federal form, which only requires people to swear they are citizens, could only vote in congressional or presidential elections. The Post editorialized that would create a “costly bureaucratic mess, requiring reams of new ballots specific to individual localities.” The editorial concluded that the GOP’s real game is not preventing voter fraud but engaging in “voter suppression, particularly aimed at Hispanics, whom the Republicans never tire of antagonizing. In the short run, this may work in some state or local elections; conceivably, it may even swing some races into the Republican column. In the medium to long term, it is folly. Minorities, whose numbers are growing, will see the GOP’s gambit for what it is: an attempt to deprive them of political clout and subvert democracy in the process.”

Two-tiered voting schemes already tried, rejected

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trying to create a two-tiered voting system in which some Kansans can vote only in certain elections. It’s his response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring states from adding requirements for registering to vote beyond what is required by the National Voter Registration Act. But similar schemes have been tried in the past and rejected, the Nation reported. After the NVRA passed in 1993, both Mississippi and Illinois tried to circumvent the law by creating a two-tiered voting system. The plans were blocked by the U.S. Justice Department and state courts.

The dishonesty of voter laws

A New York Times editorial criticized efforts by Kansas and other states to erect barriers to voting, calling out the architect of many of those strict new laws, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for his baseless claims of voter fraud. And “instead of acknowledging the seriousness” of the administrative confusion that has suspended the voting rights of 17,000 Kansans until they produce proof of citizenship, the editorial noted, Kobach has called them “mostly casual registrants, many of whom do not intend to vote.” The editorial concluded: “Kansas’ law, like those the Justice Department has challenged, reveals the underlying dishonesty of voter ID laws. They have nothing to do with stopping the nonexistent threat of voter fraud and everything to do with making it harder for more eligible voters to register and vote.”

Schodorf a welcome addition to secretary of state race

It’s not surprising that candidates already are lining up to challenge Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in next year’s election. Kobach has spent much of his time in office trying to scare people about nearly nonexistent voter fraud in order to push through restrictions on voting – that is, when he isn’t flying around the country promoting anti-immigration legislation. Former Wichita school board president and state Sen. Jean Schodorf announced Wednesday that she is running in the Democratic primary. Randy Rolston of Mission Hills also is running. Schodorf noted the more than 17,000 Kansans so far who have had their voting rights placed in “suspense” by Kobach’s new rules. “That’s voter suppression,” she said. It’s particularly galling when the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled that it is unconstitutional to require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

Voters ‘in suspense’ a local problem in Derby, Colwich

The statewide problem posed by the 17,000 voter registrations “in suspense” is an imminent threat to voting rights in two area communities. According to the Sedgwick County Election Office, 104 voter registrations were on hold as of last week in Derby, where residents will vote Oct. 8 on a 10-year, half-cent sales tax for a park project, the library, and the Derby Fire and Rescue Department. Eleven would-be voters were in similar limbo in Colwich, where residents will decide Oct. 8 whether to build a $1.65 million swimming pool complex. Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman told The Eagle editorial board that her “office has sent these applicants multiple notices and called them” (if they provided a phone number) and provided sample ballots. In order to vote, she said, they must submit proof-of-citizenship documents to her office by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 7. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has said it’s sufficient for people to pledge they are citizens, and that a year ago these voter registrations would have been good to go.

State leaders need to stand up to Kobach

Now Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is suing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to try to force it to modify the federal voter registration form to allow for requiring proof of citizenship. Rather than let Kobach continue his charade, other state leaders need to stand up, our Friday editorial argues. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Gov. Sam Brownback need to speak out and defend the 15,000 Kansans so far who have had their voting rights “suspended.” And Kansas legislators need to realize that they were misled by phony fears of voter fraud and rescind the proof-of-citizenship requirement. If they won’t step up and take charge, it will be up to the courts to rein in Kobach – again.

Should churches be able to endorse candidates?

A new report by a group of faith leaders calls for an end to the ban on churches and other houses of worship endorsing political candidates, the Washington Post reported. The faith leaders – mostly conservative evangelical pastors – argue that it is a free-speech issue and complain that the current decades-old ban is poorly enforced. Some argue that lifting the endorsement ban might not have a significant impact, because many churches would be concerned about driving away members who don’t like mixing partisan politics and religion. Overall, only 27 percent of Americans think churches should endorse candidates, with 66 percent opposed, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

KDOR doesn’t accept any blame for ‘suspended’ voters

Wednesday’s Eagle editorial argued that Gov. Sam Brownback’s Kansas Department of Revenue shares some responsibility for the problem of nearly 14,000 Kansans whose voter registrations are “in suspense” because of the new proof-of-citizenship requirement. Not so, said KDOR spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda. She said the driver’s license offices’ current computer system is capable of handling citizenship documents “and has been doing so for a few years now.” She also said: “The records coming from our offices that election officials have deemed to be in suspense are people who did not have citizenship documents with them when they came in to our office – meaning they came in to do something like renew their license or change their name.” As for a recent Lawrence Journal-World report that “local election officials say a number of people contacted to provide proof of citizenship say they presented that proof at the driver’s license office”: Koranda said, “Our records show that the ones that are affected by this did not provide proof.”

Will abortion ban and voter law be part of special session?

Though Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders wanted the Sept. 3 special session to focus only on rewriting the state’s Hard 50 criminal-sentencing law, the agenda already has expanded to include confirmation votes on as many as 19 gubernatorial appointees. Others are interested in lengthening the to-do list, perhaps with a bill “prohibiting an abortion of an unborn human individual with a detectable fetal heartbeat” or, in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case, by reopening the debate over Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. But “we’re not opening up this to legislation that’s left over or pending,” said House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell. “If we start doing that, it’s expensive to have a special session. I’m all in favor of saving the taxpayers dollars and getting this over with.” As our Wednesday editorial said, with the “special session costing $35,000 or more daily, taxpayers have a right to expect it not to last a minute longer than necessary.”

Wannabe voters ‘in suspense’ are less partisan

More than 12,000 Kansans’ right to vote is in limbo, with their registrations held “in suspense” due to the new state law requiring proof of citizenship to register. It’s particularly concerning that, according to the Lawrence Journal-World, some of those whose registrations have been delayed say they already presented documents verifying citizenship to their driver’s license office. A legislative panel recently declined Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request to let such wannabe voters cast provisional ballots in upcoming local elections because, as League of Women Voters of Kansas president Dolores Furtado noted, “It doesn’t fix the problem, it just disguises it.” The more than 12,000 suspended voters are less partisan – 57 percent unaffiliated, 23 percent Republicans and 18 percent Democrats – than the state’s more than 1.7 million already registered voters, who are 45 percent Republicans, 30 percent unaffiliated and 25 percent Democrats.

12,000 suspended voters insignificant?

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was remarkably cavalier about 12,000 Kansans (including about 2,400 in Sedgwick County) who registered to vote but were put “in suspense” because they may not have provided proof of citizenship. “I don’t think it’s a major problem,” Kobach said. “This is a pretty tiny percentage of 1.8 million voters. It’s a small number of people.” But when Kobach sold the Legislature on enacting new voting laws, he treated voter fraud as an epidemic, even though it is minuscule in comparison. According to records before Kobach took office in 2011, there had been only seven cases of alleged fraud referred to local, state or federal authorities in five years, and only one of those cases was prosecuted.

Challenging the facts of Kobach’s defense

Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s robust recent defense of his voting laws in The Eagle had factual problems, according to a Winfield Daily Courier article and a Kansas City Star columnist. In the course of his June 29 response to an Eagle editorial about his law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, Kobach described a 1997 incident in which “a bus full of individuals believed to be aliens rolled up” to the Cowley County Clerk’s Office and registered to vote in a ballot election related to hog farming. On Saturday the Winfield Daily Courier reported that no such incident had happened, and that a call to Kobach’s office revealed “what Kobach meant to write was Seward County.” (Dee Leete, who was Seward County clerk in 1997, confirmed the story, saying “there were people claiming to live in Liberal but who were being bused in from an out-of-state workplace” and “we were dealing with serious voter fraud” – though no one was prosecuted.) As for Kobach’s claim that a 2010 Missouri House “election was stolen” by one vote when J.J. Rizzo “received about 50 votes illegally cast by citizens of Somalia”: Kansas City Star columnist Yael Abouhalkah, while noting there were lots of allegations about voting irregularities involving Somalis, quoted a Jackson County judge’s ruling in August 2010 that “credible evidence proves that there was no voter misconduct and there was no voter fraud with regard to this election.” Abouhalkah concluded that Kobach “needs to find a better case before he – an elected official – states publicly that an election was illegally stolen.”