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Voter ID: Defeated in Kansas Senate, Secretary of State Tries to Unilaterally Change Voting Laws


Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discusses voter ID laws that will require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

CREDIT: AP Photo / John Hanna

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach came under fire last year for his anti-gay missionary work in Africa. This year, it appears Kobach has a new target: Kansas voters.

In April, Kansas became the 10thstate to pass a voter ID bill. The legislation gives Kansas one of the most strict voting laws in the country despite the fact that even by Kobach’s own generous estimate, there have been just 221 incidents of voter fraud in the state in the last 14 years—a rate of just more than 2/100ths of 1 percent of all votes cast. (Or, in decimal form: 0.0002% of all voters.)

But that wasn’t enough for Kobach. Soon after the initial voter ID bill passed, Kobach attempted to push through a second bill that would allow all parts of the legislation – requiring both a photo ID and proof of citizenship – to take effect before the 2012 elections. (The initial legislation required photo IDs as of Jan. 1, 2012 and delayed the proof of citizenship requirement to Jan. 1, 2013.) Despite overwhelming support for the initial bill, the Kansas Senate rejected Kobach’s second measure in bipartisan fashion.

So what did Kobach do in response to the defeat? Instead of turning his attention to implementing the original voter ID bill, Kobach put the change at the top of his legislative agenda for next year and commissioned a 17-person task force dedicated to “reviewing the [current] law and developing forms, policies and regulations to implement it before the 2012 election cycle.”

Kobach’s explanation for implementing the legislation in such a frenzied fashion was as nonsensical as the bill itself: “If you don’t have the screening in place, it’s almost impossible to find the people once they’re on the rolls of almost a million voters … For us to find that individual is searching for a needle in a very, very large haystack,” he told the Associated Press.

Given that the bill threatens to disenfranchise 620,000 voters in Kansas and will cost thousands or even millions of additional taxpayer dollars, there is absolutely no reason Kobach should be wasting time and money searching through “a very, very large haystack” for individual needles in the first place.

Correction: This article originally did not clarify that the photo ID and proof of citizenship requirements are staggered under current Kansas law.

Jeffrey Boxer is an intern with Campus Progress.

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