The campaigns of incumbent Secretaries of State and several hopefuls across the country looking to assist Kansas’ Kris Kobach in his voter suppression crusade will be given a boost in 2014. As Politico reported last week, a new group, named SOS for SoS PAC (SOS), “plans to support secretary of state candidates who are in favor of what they call ‘smart voting’ policies, like voter ID measures, proof of citizenship requirements and removing ineligible voters from voting rolls.” The PAC is being led by conservative activist Gregg Phillips – who previously led Newt Gingrich’s Winning our Future PAC – and hopes to raise $10 million to support the campaigns of conservative candidates.
The “smart voting” policies SOS champions are advertised as laws protecting the “integrity” of elections. In actuality, however, they are merely an effort to suppress citizens’ voting rights. One needs to look no further than Kobach’s home state of Kansas to see thousands of voters who are no longer eligible to vote in state elections due to voter ID laws that Kobach drafted. Other states have implemented similar laws and SOS hopes its support of state secretary candidates will increase the prevalence of these voter suppression laws throughout the country.
In the release announcing the new group, SOS revealed nine states where it would initially focus its resources. The states include Arkansas, Iowa, New Mexico, Michigan, and Minnesota. Additionally, SOS will support candidates in Arizona and Colorado, where current Kobach allies Ken Bennett and Scott Gessler are running for governor in their respective states rather than seeking additional terms as secretaries of state. Arizona State Representative Steve Montenegro seemed likely to receive SOS’ support after Kobach endorsed him last year. Since then, Montenegro has ended his exploratory committee and endorsed Arizona businessman Wil Cardon for the position. Cardon’s campaign website prominently lists election “integrity” as one its primary issues of focus.
Naturally, SOS will also support Kobach’s re-election campaign as well as Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s.
Should SOS raise as much money as it hopes, Kobach and like-minded officials will have a new, significant source of support to continue exporting voter suppression measures to states across the country. All of this is occurring while the voter suppression measures SOS advocates are being struck down in other states. Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania judge noted that up to 750,000 voters would become ineligible due to the state’s voter ID law and noted in his decision that “a vague concern about voter fraud does not rise to a level that justifies the burdens constructed here.”
Over the past year, others have expressed similar sentiments. Last year, Richard Posner – a federal judge that previously ruled in a case to uphold voter ID laws – admitted that such laws are “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” Posner lamented his previous ruling telling the New York Times that oftentimes, “judges aren’t given the facts that they need to make a sound decision.”
Kris Kobach and other SOS benefactors are actively working to undermine the most vital component of our country’s democracy. By inflating fears of a problem that is significantly exaggerated in order to maintain power and further advance extremist agendas. If Kobach and his ilk – which, of course, includes the organized anti-immigrant movement – are able to influence elections, then they can also disproportionally influence policy. Those actively working to advance these oppressive and decidedly un-democratic policies are building an interstate network to bolster their movement. These efforts must continue to be exposed.