by Joe Tone
Kris Kobach, Kansas' secretary of state and America's leading provider of illegal-immigration fear-mongering, has demonstrated that he will do anything in his power, and maybe some things out of his power, to keep illegal immigrants from voting in our nation's elections.
Of course, illegal immigrants aren't voting in our nation's elections, nor do they appear to have much interest in doing so. But that won't stop Kobach from stopping them, even if it means making it harder for some people to vote. His latest target: absentee voters. To be fair, if anyone was going to defraud the system, they'd likely vote absentee. And the latest proposed measures aren't altogether unreasonable. But still!
Kobach announced during the campaign that he would craft a bill for the Legislature requiring photo ID at the polls and demanding proof of citizenship from first-time voters. He claims that the measures are aimed at stopping all voter fraud, but given his singular, almost obsessive focus on illegal immigration -- he was in Washington last week vowing to dismantle the Constitution simply to deny citizenship to the children of the undocumented -- his intentions are obvious: Win over the masses by making them fear, and then promising to curb, illegal immigration.
He's at work on that bill now and may unveil details next week, the Wichita Eagle reports. In the meantime, he's adding something to the mix: mail-in ballots.
For people who don't live near polling places, are too ill to travel, are working overseas or serving in one of our many wars, mail-in ballots are a lifeline. Kobach claims that anyone with a pen can vote absentee, and he wants to make it harder to vote via mail, by requiring a driver's-license number or other ID number.
"Under the status quo, if you're not verifying anything in the mail-in
ballot process, Dopey, Sneezy and Sleepy can all vote by mail and no one
will ever know that they were fictitious individuals," he tells the Eagle. "But if
you have this process, those
fictitious identities aren't going to have driver's licenses. They
aren't going to have photo IDs."
That's not exactly true, because Dopey, et al. couldn't get on the voter rolls in the first place, says Wendy Weiser, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, which researches election issues. But requiring ID from absentee voters would deter theoretical fraudsters from casting illegal ballots by using the registration of voters who have died or moved, Weiser says.
But requiring ID from absentee voters, like his other proposals, could result in stopping more legal voters than illegal ones.
By requiring photo ID at the polls for all voters, Kobach will deter voters who don't have a state-issued ID, can't find theirs, or recently moved and haven't yet applied for one. By requiring proof of citizenship for first-time voters, he'll deter new voters who don't have a birth certificate handy come voting season.
And now, absentee voters. The same people who need mail-in ballots -- the sick, the elderly, deployed soldiers -- are the same people who may not have state IDs and may not be able to get them. For those people, Weiser says, the state should allow alternatives -- the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, utility bills, etc.
Otherwise, Kobach will have simply taken another expensive step toward disenfranchising voters, all in the name of stopping a problem that doesn't exist, all in a quest to prove himself Tough on Mexicans.