Alex Constantine - February 20, 2015
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When it comes to the so-called “Republican war on voting,” few figures are quite as notorious as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). The far-right official’s antics during last fall’s U.S. Senate race in Kansas were themselves remarkable, but even before then, Kobach has earned a reputation as a pioneer in voter-suppression tactics.
Not surprisingly, frequent claims about “voter fraud” – a phenomenon that largely exists in the imagination of far-right activists – have become a Kobach staple, though one particular incident is proving to be a real problem.
During last year’s election, the Kansas Secretary of State chastised U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, complaining to the media that Kobach’s office had referred examples of voter fraud to the Kansas-based federal prosecutor, but Grissom has refused to prosecute. Worse, Kobach said the U.S. Attorney didn’t “know what he’s talking about” when Grissom said voter fraud doesn’t exist in Kansas.
The AP reports today that when Kobach made these claims, he appears to have been brazenly lying (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).
[I]n a Nov. 6 letter sent from Grissom to Kobach and obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, the prosecutor responded that his office received no such referrals from Kobach, and chided the secretary of state for his statements.
Going forward, if your office determines there has been an act of voter fraud please forward the matter to me for investigation and prosecution,” Grissom wrote. “Until then, so we can avoid misstatements of facts for the future, for the record, we have received no voter fraud cases from your office in over four and a half years. And, I can assure you, I do know what I’m talking about."
Wait, it gets worse.
Kobach now concedes that when he said he’d referred voter-fraud cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office, he had not, in reality, referred voter-fraud cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office. But, the right-wing official told the AP, Kobach’s predecessor had alerted the federal prosecutor to two relevant cases and Grissom ignored those referrals.
It turns out, that’s not true, either: federal investigators looked into those 2011 allegations and, as the AP report noted, they concluded they were not voter fraud.
Why in the world would Kobach make such demonstrably false allegations? Because he wants Kansas’ legislature to empower his office directly to go after voter-fraud cases – which, remember, are largely imaginary.
Last year, though there was some statewide polling that suggested Kansans were getting tired of Kobach’s ridiculous stunts, the far-right Secretary of State was nevertheless re-elected in November in a landslide.