Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, co-chairman of President Trump’s “election integrity” commission and arguably the nation’s most aggressive advocate of restricting voting rights, oversaw the disqualification of an alarming number of ballots last year in his home state, reports the Associated Press.
Using standards which Kobach hopes to implement nationally, Kansas discarded 17,313 ballots last fall, more than were thrown out in Florida, a state with a population nearly seven times larger.
As the functioning leader of the president’s commission, Kobach angered state election officials across the country in June by asking them to supply a variety of personal information about their voters. More than 40 states rejected at least part of the request, which included information about each voter’s political party preference and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Kobach is a key policy architect for Trump’s national campaign against voter fraud. His strict standards for qualifying voters in Kansas’ elections and his suggested policies, including tough voter ID laws and proof of citizenship requirements for voters, have drawn fire from Common Cause and other watchdog groups.
Many of last year’s discarded Kansas ballots were cast provisionally, set aside at polling places because officials had questions about the qualifications of the voters. Provisional ballots can be invalidated more easily than standard ballots but most generally are determined to be valid and are counted.
Kansas last year rejected 10,148 provisional ballots cast by individuals who were found to be incorrectly registered or who attempted to vote at the wrong precinct. An additional 22,726 ballots cast by individuals who voted in the correct county but the wrong polling place were counted only in part.
In contrast, the neighboring state of Missouri rejected just 3,803 provisional ballots. Several other states, including Ohio and California, use provisional ballots to update voter rolls before verifying and counting them as regular ballots.
Many Kansas voters who were challenged at the polls also reported that the state’s online registration system had notified them before the election that they were properly registered. State officials apparently addressed the problem starting about a month before polls opened but did not update the records of an undetermined number of individuals who registered before that.
Kansas’ failure to count as many votes as possible is clearly intentional. Kobach has a lengthy history of attempting to prevent eligible voters from registering and voting.
During last year’s campaign, it took the threat of a contempt of court charge to persuade Kobach to comply with a court order that his office add some 18,000 voters to the rolls. At Kobach’s direction, those voters initially were issued provisional ballots, raising doubts about whether their ballots would be counted.
Despite Kobach’s insistence that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory in the presidential race was won with the help of fraudulent votes, his office has only successfully convicted a single noncitizen voter.
Several lawsuits allege that Kobach’s 2011 Secure and Fair Elections Act, a law requiring strict voter ID standards, illegally suppresses minority voting and violates the Voting Rights Act. Two judges also recently ruled that Kobach intentionally misled federal courts about documents pertaining to the National Voter Registration Act.
Issues: Voting and Elections