What’s the matter with Kansas? A decade ago, a best-selling book of that title examined how Kansas veered rightward after a long history as a left-wing hotbed. It looks like Kansas may be shifting course again.
Not only does the state have one of the country’s most competitive contests for governor, it may wind up determining which party controls the U.S. Senate.
But another race in the Sunflower State deserves close attention. Republican Kris Kobach is up for re-election as Secretary of State.
Kobach’s battles against undocumented immigration and voter fraud have been bad news for immigrants, Kansans, and even the GOP. I hope Kansas voters will send him packing.
If you’ve heard of Kobach, it’s probably because of his work fighting undocumented immigration. He was the architect of SB 1070, Arizona’s infamous “papers, please” law. Although the Supreme Court upheld many of its provisions, the law cost Arizona dearly.
For example, the state lost an estimated $141 million due to canceled conferences and other foregone tourist revenue within just a year of the measure’s passage. Kobach helped write a similarly radical Alabama law. That one would’ve forced schools to check the immigration status of children. Most of its provisions were later blocked in court, though not before damaging the state’s agricultural industry.
Kobach was also the mastermind behind Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” concept, which contributed to the 2012 Republican presidential candidate’s disastrous showing with Latino voters.
Romney himself may realize that this position helped cost him the White House. Last year he told “CBS This Morning” that undocumented immigrants should have a shot at citizenship.
Kobach’s crusade against unauthorized immigration has accomplished little besides creating headaches for immigrants and lawmakers alike. On top of that, it’s not his job.
Kobach was elected to serve as Kansas Secretary of State, not to crisscross the country making life miserable for housekeepers and farm workers. He’s been moonlighting instead of concentrating on his primary responsibility of ensuring that Kansas elections run smoothly.
Yet when Kobach has turned his attention to the home front, the results have been a disaster. As Secretary of State, he’s supposed to encourage voter turnout. Instead, he instituted a voter ID law requiring Kansans to show proof of citizenship to vote in state elections.
As a result, the New York Times reports, the applications of an estimated 22,000 people trying to register to vote for the first time are on hold.
Then again, Kobach has a history of politicizing his office. In 2012 he considered removing President Barack Obama from the state’s ballots based on an unfounded “birther” myth that he wasn’t born a U.S. citizen.
More recently, Kobach meddled in the tight race over the state’s U.S. Senate race, trying to give an advantage to the incumbent Republican candidate. The Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled against this ploy.
No wonder Kansans seem to have had it with Kris Kobach.
“Kansans deserve a Secretary of State who will run the office in a serious and professional manner,” The Kansas City Star declared when it endorsed his opponent Steve Rose. One of the newspaper’s local columnists has urged voters to send the “dangerous” Kobach “into political oblivion.”
The Wichita Eagle is also endorsing Kobach’s challenger. It recently ran an op-ed by Michael A. Smith, who rightly observes that Kobach’s laws are “suppressing votes, not fraud.”
The best way to fix our broken immigration system remains comprehensive reform. It would boost our economy, strengthen national security, and secure our borders. And studies consistently show that voter fraud is almost nonexistent.
At a state legislative hearing in January, Kobach admitted that his office could only point to 20 non-citizens having improperly registered to vote. These tiny numbers are hardly worth disenfranchising thousands of Kansas voters.
One of the biggest things wrong with Kansas is Kris Kobach. It’s time for him to go.