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OPINION

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall vote rekindles memory of when Kansas said 'No' to the South

By Bob Beatty
Special to Gannett Kansas
Bob Beatty

We’re all aware that on Jan. 6, Kansas’ newest senator, Roger Marshall, voted to oppose the certification of Arizona's 11 electoral votes. Marshall did this following Donald Trump’s pleas to senators to support him in his assertions that in fact he, not Joe Biden, had won the 2020 election. Trump’s claims of victory were so grandiose that he said he won “in a landslide,” meaning that alleged fraud must have been on such a large scale that over 10 million votes were changed.

These claims from Trump and his legal team were rejected by judges and courts across the country, including the Supreme Court. Marshall opposed the certification of electoral votes after Trump called Georgia election officials and asked them to just “find” votes. He did this after the state of Arizona — with a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature — certified Biden’s win.

And Roger Marshall did this after a Trump-inspired insurrectionist mob invaded the U.S. Capitol and tried to stop the certification of all electoral votes, resulting in the deaths of five people.

Kansas’s senior senator and fellow Republican, Jerry Moran, did not vote with Marshall. Moran stated, in part: “The states, consistent with the principles of federalism and a limited national government, possess the sole authority to determine and submit their electors. To vote to reject these state-certified electoral votes would be to act outside the bounds of the Constitution, which I will not do."

He also said: “Voting to object to the electoral process without a constitutional basis to do so may be expedient and lead to short-term political benefits for some, but would risk undermining our democracy — which is built upon the rule of law and separation of powers. No victory for one’s cause today can be worth what we would lose tomorrow."

I will leave it up to Kansans as to whether you agree or disagree with Marshall's actions, but in watching the votes against Arizona’s certification, I was struck by something: The six senators who voted with Trump were five senators from states representing stars on the Confederate flag — Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri — and Kansas.

In short, on one of the more significant votes in American history, Kansas joined the states of the old Confederacy.

It is a stark reminder of another historic moment in Kansas history when Kansas was asked to join the old Confederacy in a momentous action but instead said “No, thanks.”

The year was 1954, and the Supreme Court had ruled in the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case that school segregation in the United States was unconstitutional. Leaders in the south were apoplectic. In other words, they went nuts, and vowed to disobey the Supreme Court ruling. Georgia’s Attorney General Eugene Cook invited Kansas' Attorney General Harold Fatzer to Atlanta to meet with him and other officials about plans to thwart the Constitution. Fatzer promptly called statehouse reporters to tell them that he certainly would not be going to Atlanta.

Fatzer’s stance prompted a special editorial in the Topeka State Journal on May 24, 1954, which read: “It was expected that the southern states would seek to annul the Decree, but Kansas is law abiding and honors all laws,” and “Kansas wants no part of the effort to upset the constitution, and Attorney General Fatzer is to be complimented upon his refusal.”

Hearing Roger Marshall’s “Yes” vote, marking Kansas as the only state not from the old Confederacy to vote in favor of refusing to certify Arizona’s electoral votes, reminded me of a time — is it so long ago? — when Kansas said “No.”