When it comes to strengthening election laws to eliminate voter fraud, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) has captured headlines for years.
He has helped several states, including Arizona, develop their own voting laws--and recently pushed the Kansas legislature to give him prosecutorial powers over election fraud cases.While critics claim this is a duplication of powers, with local prosecutors having the same duties and responsibilities, Kobach claimed at the signing ceremony in June that he had 100 unique cases of suspected voter fraud lined up to prosecute.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, overseeing 25% of Kansas' population, says that in his experience, Kobach's numbers are highly inflated and there will be a significant trimming of the list.
'Voter fraud' cases are routinely dismissed from courts because of legitimate, honest mistakes from the individuals, including one man with dementia voting both by mail and in person.
Howe also stated that in his six years as Johnson County prosecutor, he had only seen 2 cases that could not be explained by honest mistakes.
After 4 months of investigating, the first round of cases involves only 3 people (one a married couple).
These cases revolve around a gross misunderstanding of election laws by the defendants, but there is definitely a large kernel of 'reasonable doubt' attached.
In each case, the central issue is that the defendants were part-time residents of two states, and they believed they could vote in local elections in both states.
Lincoln L. Wilson in Sherman County, which borders Colorado, owns considerable property in Colorado and Kansas. He insists that his reasoning is sound for voting in both states, claiming that he didn't double vote in any federal elections:
The issues in Kansas that I vote for would’ve been for that general election, such as property tax … and if I voted for a senator or a representative in the state of Kansas, that would have nothing to do with a senator or a representative in the state of Colorado. When I look at a Colorado form, I’m signing a Colorado form. It doesn’t say it’s a United States form, it says it’s a Colorado form, in Kansas, my reasoning was the same.
Kansas taxpayers pay partial-taxes based on what percentage of the earnings are made in Kansas when earnings are made in more than one state. Wilson was not completely unjustified in his reasoning.
But the real issue here is whether or not these prosecutions are going to live up to their initial claims -- no glamorous prosecutions of illegal immigrants disrupting our voting system and definitely not anywhere near the 100 prosecutions Kobach claimed to have lined up.
In a state that is crippled by budgeting shortfalls, at some point the cost of these investigations has to be considered, but so far no information has been released by the secretary of state's office on the amount spent on this project.
In the end, Kansas is likely to duplicate the findings of all other states that 'seriously' go after voter fraud. State officials will find that voter registration fraud is rampant, but that actual voter fraud at the polls is nearly non-existent.