Kobach, Biggs spar over voter registration records
Topeka ? Kansas election officials cast doubt Thursday on Republican Kris Kobach’s claim to have evidence of possible voter fraud, and the candidate for secretary of state faced an ethics complaint filed by a Democratic Party staffer.
Kobach, a Kansas City-area law professor and former state GOP chairman, has made election fraud his biggest issue in trying to oust Democratic incumbent Chris Biggs, who says Kobach exaggerates the potential threat.
“It’s clear that the Biggs campaign is trying to distract people away from the real issue of voter fraud,” Kobach said.
During a news conference Thursday, Kobach said his campaign had discovered a possible example of a vote being cast in the name of a dead man in Sedgwick County during the August primary. Kobach also cited a report by KSBH-TV in Kansas City that covered a potentially similar case in Johnson County.
But officials in those two counties said both ballots were cast by living voters who were properly registered.
Kobach said the state’s voter registration rolls include hundreds of dead people. He cited a report this week by KSHB-TV that almost 2,000 names on Kansas’ rolls matched a list of deaths compiled by the federal Social Security Administration.
Biggs’ office confirmed that a comparison of the federal deaths list with voter rolls produced almost 2,000 possible matches, out of more 1.7 million registrations. But Biggs spokesman Tyler Longpine said a quick review showed at least two-thirds of the potential matches were “false positives,” something the TV report acknowledged.
As Kobach wrapped up his news conference, the Democratic Party announced a complaint against him over 20 contributions to his campaign. Executive Director Kenny Johnston, filed it Thursday with the state Governmental Ethics Commission.
The complaint alleges five contributions to Kobach exceeding the $2,000 maximum allowed by law, including three from his parents. It alleges six contributions violated a law against named donors giving more than $100 in cash and nine violate a law against anonymous donations of cash above $10.
Biggs said later that the complaint and Kobach’s “shotgun approach” on election fraud issues demonstrate that the Republican is unfit for the office.
“He misrepresents statistics,” Biggs said. “He jumps to conclusions. He’s not careful about details.”
Kobach said he’s confident none of his donors exceeded the legal contribution limit, adding that Democrats either are misreading his report or, possibly, finding typographical errors. He called their allegations “laughably trivial.”
As far as the registration rolls, he said anyone who checks them can see they need to be “cleaned up.”
During his news conference, Kobach said six counties — Cherokee, Graham, Hodgeman, Nemaha, Rawlins and Smith — have more registered voters than residents 18 and older. The Associated Press compared preliminary registration figures for Oct. 1 with census population estimates from 2009 to verify the claim.
Election officials in several counties said they check for obituaries and death certificates regularly and use Social Security data as verification, but confirmation can be slow if someone dies out of state. Also, they said, federal law limits the purging of inactive voters’ names.
In Smith County, the number of registered voters, 3,325, is 9 percent higher than the census estimate for the voting-age population, the greatest disparity. But County Clerk Sharon Wolters noted that more than 300 voters are inactive and many will be dropped from the rolls after the election.
She also said the census figures may underestimate the population in rural areas.
Wolters, a Republican, said a candidate for secretary of state should have checked on such issues before having a news conference, adding, “I was a little disappointed.”
Also during his news conference, Kobach cited a ballot in the August primary from Alfred K. Brewer, of Wichita, as potentially questionable. He noted a person by that name died in 1996.
But Bill Gale, Sedgwick County’s election commissioner, said the vote was cast by the deceased man’s son, now in his 70s. He said registration records automatically listed the voter’s date of birth as Jan. 1, 1900 because only ages, not dates, were required when he first registered in 1964.
Brewer, a registered Republican, did not return a telephone message.
In Johnson County, a deceased resident was credited with voting in November 2008. But Election Commissioner Brian Newby said another voter simply signed the wrong line in a poll book, and the records have since been corrected.