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GOP candidates for secretary of state respond to ACLU voting rights campaign

An announcement over the weekend that the American Civil Liberties Union is launching a political campaign to repeal Kansas' restrictive voting laws prompted sharp comments Monday from Republican candidates running for secretary of state.

Rep. Scott Schwab issued a statement calling the ACLU an "extreme leftist" group that wants to repeal voting laws that he says are overwhelmingly popular.

"These outsiders forget that these elections safeguards were passed with the bipartisan support of even key Democrat leaders like constitutional attorney and 2nd congressional district candidate, Paul Davis, and current House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate, Jim Ward," Schwab said. "Reality is: we're Kansans. Political hijackers like the ACLU shouldn’t try telling us what our election laws should and shouldn’t be."

In 2011, current Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national crusader against illegal immigration, championed passage of laws requiring people to show proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote, and government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot at the polls.

The ACLU is currently challenging the proof-of-citizenship law in federal court. Last summer, a judge issued a temporary injunction barring the state from requiring proof of citizenship for people who register when renewing their driver's license, saying that conflicts with the National Voter Registration Act, or NVRA, also known as the "motor voter" law.

A 2016 survey by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University found Kansans deeply split over those laws. Half of those surveyed said they think the laws have helped prevent voter fraud, but 42 percent said they believe they have made it more difficult for otherwise eligible voters to vote.

Nationally, though, a Gallup poll in August 2016 found that 80 percent of Americans support laws requiring people to show photo ID at the polls.

Kobach is now running for governor in 2018. Three Republicans have announced they will run for secretary of state. In addition to Schwab, they are Sedgwick County Clerk Kelly Arnold, who is also chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, and Rep. Keith Esau of Olathe. No Democrat has gotten into the race so far.

Arnold said in an email that he supports both the photo ID and proof of citizenship laws, and if elected would advocate keeping both.

"Free and fair elections are critical to our system of government," he said. "As Secretary of State, I will work to protect the integrity of each election. In order to provide such protection, Kansas law provides a simple voter ID check to ensure that only those who are eligible may vote. I support both laws as they currently stand. Over 80 percent of Americans, both Republican and Democrat, support Voter ID laws."

Esau also said he supports the laws.

"Voting rights are different from other rights in our Constitution because voting rights are only granted to citizens. Other rights are inherent and granted by God," he said in a phone interview Monday.

Comments

Phillip Chappuie

I would agree with the statement that free and fair elections are critical to our system of government. However the function of the Secretary of State office is to make voting accessible to all eligible citizens. The current bunch is more in line with voter suppression. That is clear to the most casual observer. And Mr. Esau is horribly confused on his understanding of Constitutional rights. All rights are granted by the document that is created by the authors and a culmination of many reviews by the SCOTUS. There is no god granting anything.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Gary Pomeroy

May I suggest that the Constitution was by the citizens, through their representatives, of a grant of power to the federal government and the constitution was not a grant of rights to the citizens. For example see the 10th amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." It was initially a limitation on government - hence the Bill of Rights to make clear what the federal government could not do, based in part on the experience with the British.
AS to the underlying issue, I just flew on an airplane and had to show picture ID several times in order to get on the plane. While the present system for voter ID may not be completely appropriate and should be reviewed and adjusted for fairness (not a big Kobach fan), some form of verification is too burdensome to vote but not to get on an airplane?

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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