Voter fraud is a hot topic in the current campaign for Kansas secretary of state.
On the surface, it seems like a legitimate issue for candidates for a state office that is responsible for running Kansas elections. No one wants Kansas elections to be swayed or decided by illegal voting.
But is voter fraud really a problem in Kansas or another case of a candidate trying to promote solutions for a problem that doesn’t exist?
Republican Ron Thornburgh, who served as Kansas secretary of state for 15 years before resigning in February, says voter fraud isn’t a significant problem in Kansas. Democrat Chris Biggs, who was appointed to complete Thornburgh’s term and is running for election to the office, agrees.
Biggs’ opponent, Republican Kris Kobach hasn’t really presented any evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Kansas, but he nonetheless is proposing some specific measures to eradicate it. He wants to make Kansans prove their citizenship when they register to vote and present a photo ID when they go to the polls.
Such measures would pose unnecessary impediments to legitimate Kansas voters casting their ballots in order to solve a problem that hasn’t been shown to exist.
A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law makes some interesting points about voter fraud. The report, titled “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” found that individual voter fraud was extremely rare in the United States and that a large number of fraud accusations actually were attributable to clerical errors or other easily explainable circumstances: addresses that appeared to be vacant lots but actually held houses, “dead” voters who actually cast legitimate ballots before they died, voters registered in two places who had moved and not canceled their earlier registration, confusion between two voters with the same name, etc.
In other words, there was no intention on the part of voters to subvert an election.
Forcing voters to show proof of citizenship and present photo IDs at the polls seems related to Kobach’s concern about issues related to illegal immigration in the U.S., but there are other issues that should be of more concern to the Kansas secretary of state.
The use of computers to cast and count votes, for instance, presents a far greater threat for election-changing voter fraud. Reports from the 2008 elections about the difficulty many U.S. military personnel stationed abroad had in casting absentee ballots is another issue that may deserve attention.
If voter fraud is a problem in Kansas, the secretary of state should clearly identify and then define that problem then propose specific steps to address it. Unless the problem is verified, there’s no reason to create new legal hoops that make it harder for legitimate Kansas voters to register and vote.