Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Why Kris Kobach's Failed Senate Bid Is Good News for Election Reformers

Created: 05 August, 2020
Updated: 14 August, 2022
3 min read

Kansas Republicans have apparently moved on from former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Party members nominated US Rep. Roger Marshall over Kobach Tuesday to be the party’s nominee for US Senate, reportedly heeding the advice of establishment Republicans who do not have faith in Kobach’s ability to win.

It’s a decision that could also make several election reformers happy as Kobach often used his official position as secretary of state to protect his own interests and the interests of his party at the expense of the rights of voters and candidates: 

During his tenure as secretary of state, he:

  • Tried to force a Democratic candidate to remain on the 2014 US Senate ballot in an attempt to protect Sen. Pat Roberts from a two-person race with independent Greg Orman;
  • Tried to force the Democratic Party to name a new nominee and suggested he would delay printing of ballots after the Kansas Supreme Court rejected his attempt to keep the Democratic candidate on the 2014 Senate ballot;
  • Proposed legislation in 2015 in direct response to Roberts’ near defeat to independent Greg Orman and his own re-election vulnerabilities that would re-institute straight-ticket voting; and make it all but impossible for a name to be removed from the ballot;
  • Attempted to divide registered voters into two classes -- voters who used the state form to register (which required ID) and voters who used the federal form (which does not require ID) -- in an effort to delegitimize the voters registered through the federal form. This attempt was struck down in federal court; 
  • Illegally purged 18,000 citizens from the voter rolls, which was also struck down in federal court;
  • Chose to chase non-existent cases of voter fraud, while ignoring mounting evidence that there was ballot machine tampering in the 2014 midterm; and.
  • Initially refused to recuse himself from the GOP gubernatorial primary recount, in which he managed to barely win by .04% of the vote. It was only after voting discrepancies were discovered that he gave into political pressure to recuse himself.

On top of all of that, Kobach oversaw closed primary elections that relegated many state voters to the sidelines while taxpayer dollars were used to fund a process that explicitly benefited the major parties and their members.

Kobach wanted to be seen as a champion of election integrity. He was among the top public officials leading the charge for voter ID laws in the US -- even writing Arizona’s Voter ID law, which is among the most stringent in the country.

Yet, as Kansas' chief elections administrator, he seemed more worried about challenges to himself and his partisan allies than protecting the voting rights of Kansas citizens. His political career was marred by one controversy after another as his policies attempted to rob many Kansas voters of meaningful participation in the elections process.

Kobach even faced potential investigation for voter registration tampering in 2018, not long after he served as chair of Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Just let that irony sink in for a moment.

His record would have been an albatross around a campaign that could sway the political makeup of the US Senate; especially, as more and more voters reject the partisan schemes that explicitly protect those in power.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that GOP leaders -- including US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- have no faith in Kobach’s ability to win. His 2018 gubernatorial loss was a key campaign talking point for Rep. Marshall, who raised more money and garnered more key endorsements.

Clearly, it was effective.

The 2020 Kansas Senate has the potential to be highly contested as Marshall goes up against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier, who despite being a lifelong Republican, made national headlines when she switched parties in 2018. Millions of dollars have already poured into the race as both sides vie for power over the Senate. 

Unfortunately for Kobach, just as he expected of so many Kansas voters as the state's top elections official, he will have to watch the election from the sidelines.