While canvassing with state Rep. Brett Parker in Kansas’ 29 District earlier this year, I heard him tell a constituent: “I want to make Kansas boring again. Let’s pay our bills, and stay out of the national headlines.”
But I suspect that Parker, who richly deserved his re-election to the Kansas House, shares with me a far bolder goal for Kansas:
Let’s make some good headlines in 2019 by passing strong voting rights bills.
Outgoing Secretary of State Kris Kobach built his career a cheap and easy way: by creating fear, then exploiting it.
He made baseless claims of both non-citizen voting and double voting. He quoted enormous, scary numbers of citizens double voting or non-citizens registering in Kansas.
As it turns out, none of Kobach’s numbers had a basis in reality.
By now, the Kansas Legislature realizes that he misrepresented the data from Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck, the deeply flawed voter-fraud tool run out of his office, to paint a false picture of widespread double voting. Once he gained prosecutorial powers on the back of this misrepresentation, he notched a total of nine misdemeanor prosecutions over four years. (To be clear, nine double voters is nine too many. No one wants that. But it is a small problem, not an epidemic.)
And after the Fish v. Kobach trial over Kansas’ SAFE Act, Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship voting law, in federal court, the entire world knows that Kobach had no evidence to support his claim of 30,000 non-citizens on the voter rolls. But his hubris is apparently so boundless that he continued to repeat these discredited claims on the campaign trail.
In a Nov. 13 Washington Post, op-ed, conservative pundit Jennifer Rubin wrote:
“House Democrats also can conduct oversight hearings on voting access and reform; they should haul in elected officials who have made baseless allegations of election trickery, demand they produce proof and in the absence of evidence urge them to retract their specious claims. (Maybe political hacks will think twice about fanning rumors if they know they will be held to account for their comments.)”
I don’t expect the U.S. House to hold Kobach accountable for his baseless allegations, but I expect the Kansas Legislature — both Republicans and Democrats — to repudiate his legacy through good governance and good legislation. Take this opportunity to close the door on the Kobach era.
Secretary of State-elect Scott Schwab should decline to pursue appeal of the decision on the SAFE Act, which was based on a lie. Kansas was already safe from non-citizens voting under the previous method of a sworn affidavit under penalty of felony.
Schwab should then enroll Kansas in the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC. ERIC actually does help remove individuals registered in two states from the voter rolls, as Kobach falsely claims Crosscheck does. It also helps remove individuals registered twice within the same state and deceased individuals, neither of which Crosscheck even attempts to do.
Schwab should move quickly to protect Kansas from crippling financial liability in case of a hack of Crosscheck’s massive database by acquiring data liability insurance. Or, better still, he could shut down the ineffective, risky Crosscheck system altogether.
The Kansas Legislature should pass Brett Parker’s HB 2538 which didn’t even get a hearing in committee in 2018. Among other things, this bill would allow same-day voter registration and allow Kansans to obtain permanent advance ballot status, so that that wouldn’t have to request advance ballots anew at every election.
These should not be controversial measures. Unfortunately, the Republican brand is currently so synonymous with anti-voting stances that everyone I have encountered in my two years of anti-Crosscheck advocacy has assumed I’m a Democrat. (I’m not.)
Kansas Republicans in the Legislature: Join Kansas voters and put the Kobach legacy in the rearview mirror.
Reprinted from November 21, 2018 Kansas City Star.