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Kobach’s antics in — and out of — Kansas may be finally catching up with him

Imagine 2050 Staff • Oct 06, 2014
Kris Kobach
Kris Kobach

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s blatantly partisan attempts to influence his state’s United States Senate elections seem to have finally come to an end.

Last Wednesday, a Kansas district court judge ruled once again that Democrats did not have to name a new nominee after former candidate Chad Taylor withdrew from the race. Kobach’s office then sent an order to local elections officials to print ballots without a Democratic nominee.

When Kobach isn’t directly attempting to influence who is on the ballot, he works to limit who is able to cast one.

As Kansas’ chief election official, Kobach, a Republican, relentlessly fought in court in order to keep Taylor’s name on the ballot. Many rightly viewed Kobach’s efforts as an obvious attempt to protect incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Kobach is a member of Roberts’ honorary campaign committee which faces a significant challenge from Independent candidate Greg Orman.

Shortly after courts in Kansas determined that Democrats did not have to nominate a candidate in this year’s election, a Kansas resident and registered Democrat, David Orel, filed suit against the Kansas Democratic Party to nominate a candidate. Orel’s lawsuit appeared suspicious from the start. His son is a campaign staffer for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback – a close ally of Kobach’s and Roberts’ – and he failed to appear in court on the first day the district court heard arguments for his case on Sept. 29. District Judge Franklin Theis said that Orel’s absence “turned this into political theater instead of a judicial proceeding.”

Earlier that day, Kobach attempted to attach himself to Orel’s lawsuit, but the court ruled against him. According to The Topeka Capital-Journal, the case’s presiding judge determined “that Kobach’s presence wouldn’t add appreciably to settling the questions before the panel.”

When Kobach isn’t directly attempting to influence who is on the ballot, he works to limit who is able to cast one.

Over the past several years, Kobach has been at the forefront of implementing and defending the SAFE Act in Kansas – a law he authored that limits thousands of Kansas voters’ access to ballots. The law was championed by voter suppression advocates throughout the country including Catherine Engelbrecht of the grassroots voter suppression organization True the Vote. During a 2012 event at the Heritage Foundation, Engelbrecht described Kobach’s SAFE Act as “a model that I believe to be considered best practice in election integrity.”

Oct. 14 Heritage event with voter suppression proponents

That past Heritage event bears a striking resemblance to one that the stalwart conservative think tank will host on Oct. 14 titled, “Keeping Elections Honest: How States Can Protect Your Vote.” Kobach, Engelbrecht, and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler were all featured speakers at the 2012 event and are slated to present at the upcoming event.

Amid these court battles, and traveling across the country to push for policies that curb voter turnout in states other than Kansas, Kobach also must also mount an increasingly challenging re-election campaign. Kansans are increasingly becoming disillusioned with Kobach’s blatant partisanship and as some local observers have noted that it may cost him in November. “This is what he has been been doing for three and a half years. He’s only been representing himself and his party,” said Kobach’s Democratic challenger and former Republican State Sen. Jean Schodorf.

Come November, Kansas voters can decide if they want another four years of Kobach’s advocacy of discriminatory policies. Whether it’s limiting access to ballots at home or defending harsh anti-immigrant legislation in courts across the country, Kobach has proven that he has little interest in merely serving the Kansans that first elected him in 2010.

This most recent episode surrounding the 2014 election ballot may be the final straw.

As The Kansas City Star’s editorial board succinctly put it recently: “The citizens of Kansas would be better served if their secretary of state worked on ensuring a smooth-running election instead of trying to interfere in one of its races.”

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