Last week, this newspaper printed a column by Rudy Taylor criticizing Kansas’s Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act that requires photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register. He also criticized my efforts to defend that law in court against the ACLU. Taylor’s column was misinformed and misleading.
First, Taylor claimed Kansas’ law requiring photo ID and proof of citizenship is a solution in search of a problem.
It appears that Taylor didn’t do any research for his piece, which he appropriately labeled “Off the Cuff.” Had he bothered to Google the subject, he would have learned that voter fraud has occurred literally hundreds of times of Kansas.
In 2012, the Kansas legislature was presented with 235 documented cases of voter fraud in Kansas between 1997 and the end of 2011. On top of that, in the past three years Sedgwick County has discovered 25 cases of aliens registering, or attempting to register, in one county alone. In addition, my office has prosecuted another five cases of election fraud — all of which involved people voting twice in the same election.
So that’s 265 cases right there, and there are numerous other election crime cases that my offices has not yet made public. Those will be announced in future prosecutions.
My question for Taylor is this: How much voter fraud does it take for you to recognize that the problem exists?
Taylor also expresses his pleasure that a federal district judge recently ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claimed that Congress’s “Motor Voter” law of 1993 created special privileges for people who register at the department of motor vehicles. According to the ACLU, if you register at the DMV you never have to prove that you are a citizen; but if you register by mail, proof of citizenship can be required. Congress never even suggested such a strange distinction.
There’s an important constitutional principle at stake — states’ rights. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that each state has the sovereign authority (under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution) to establish and enforce voter qualifications, such as by requiring proof of citizenship. The court also stated that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to enact a law restricting this state authority.
Unfortunately, the district judge’s opinion disregarded this important constitutional principle. That’s why we are appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Hopefully the Court of Appeals will rule in favor of Kansas’s law and will protect the constitutional authority of the States.
Taylor might not like the fact that I am fighting this fight, but he evidently doesn’t understand what is at stake. If Kansas loses, then all 50 States lose. This important state authority to control the qualifications for voting is something that the Founding Fathers sought to protect when then drafted the Constitution in 1787. Had that protection not been in the Constitution, the states never would have ratified it.
Finally, Taylor throws a juvenile insult at me. He suggests that only “small minds” worry about voter fraud.
Taylor evidently thinks he’s a lot smarter than the vast majority of Kansans. The fact is, Kansans like our proof-of-citizenship requirement. A May 2016 survey of 500 Kansans showed that 77 percent of Kansans approve of the requirement. Only 14 percent disapprove. That’s why virtually all Republicans in the Legislature voted in favor of it, and more than two-thirds of Democrats voted in favor as well.
Other states like the Kansas law too. Two states (Alabama and Pennsylvania) have already copied parts of Kansas’s SAFE Act. And more states are likely to adopt the Kansas model in the future. Kansas has emerged as the state that leads the way in preventing voter fraud.
Finally, let’s consider last week’s primary election in Kansas. During the primary, there were three elections for the Kansas House that were decided by a margin of fewer than 50 votes. One was an exact tie that will be decided by coin toss. The others had margins of 14 votes and 37 votes respectively.
When the margins of victory are that narrow, election security is at a premium because it only takes a handful of fraudulent votes to steal the election. However, the SAFE Act ensures that even in such tight races, we can be absolutely certain that the outcome is accurate.
In Kansas, our laws ensure that it is easy to vote, but hard to cheat. That is something to celebrate.
Kris W. Kobach is the Kansas Secretary of State.