The Kansas GOP is taking a new approach to fighting voter fraud, the explosive topic that many in the GOP say is rampant and many Democrats say is a smokescreen designed to give cover to Republican efforts at voter suppression. Instead of pushing for more restrictive voter ID laws, Kansas has given its Secretary of State special powers to prosecute election misconduct. The Associated Press reports:
Kansas is unique among U.S. states in recently granting its top elections official the power to prosecute alleged voting irregularities himself, and Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is looking to move a contentious national debate past tough voter identification laws.
Kobach’s office earlier this month filed three election fraud cases in two counties, accusing the defendants of illegally voting in Kansas while casting ballots in the same elections in other states. The law allowing his office to do so — instead of forwarding evidence to prosecutors — took effect in July, and Kobach has promised to pursue more cases in the next two months.
The interesting thing about this initiative is that it might offer—in time—some hard evidence in an area marked by demagoguery on both sides. Democrats swear (unconvincingly, given the number of corrupt big city machines under the Democratic tent) that electoral fraud is a Thing of the Distant Past, while the GOP swears (without enough evidence to convinced the unbiased mind) that it is prevalent enough to be guarded against.
So what we need is answers. In the nature of things, that has to come from officials hunting for it and trying to prove it in court. If they find evidence, that will tell us something, and we can adjust policy accordingly. And if there are a number of efforts that keep coming up with nothing, then we’ve also learned something (and the case for voter identification laws will get much weaker). We should approach this debate with open minds, ready to receive facts—so its important that the Kansas Secretary of State wield his new power even-handedly, and resists pressures to turn this into another partisan scrum.