The integrity of elections has been a crucial concern of Kansans since the birth of our state. More than any other state, Kansas was born in an atmosphere of rampant voter fraud. Our first territorial legislative election saw 4,908 fraudulent votes cast (mostly by Missourians). In the ensuing years, many Kansans put themselves at great risk to safeguard the integrity of elections.
The Kansas (Wyandotte) Constitution, adopted in 1859, provided that every Kansas voter must be a United States citizen to cast a legal ballot. The Kansas Constitution also states that the Kansas Legislature shall provide for “proper proofs,” or evidence, of the right to vote. It was that authority that the Kansas Legislature exercised during the 2011 legislative session, when it enacted the Secure and Fair Elections Act, which I drafted.
This law, supported by nearly every Republican and by more than two-thirds of Democrats in the Legislature, requires photo ID at the polls and proof of citizenship for newly registered voters. Simply stated, the SAFE Act provides for the very “proofs” that our state’s founders contemplated in 1859.
However, The Wichita Eagle editorial board recently criticized this law and my work to enforce it (”Second-class Kansans,” Oct. 17 Eagle Editorial). In doing so, the board made two false statements.
First, the editorial board claimed that the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council prohibited “states from having more voter-registration requirements than those established by Congress.” That was incorrect.
In fact, the Supreme Court said exactly the opposite. The court reaffirmed that each state has the sovereign authority to establish and enforce voter qualifications, such as by proving citizenship. The court also stated that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to enact a law restricting this state authority. If the members of the editorial board had done their homework, they would have known that the Supreme Court simply said that states must “accept and use” the federal mail voter-registration form to register voters for federal elections. As it is currently written, the federal form for Kansas doesn’t require proof of citizenship. (The state form, which more than 99 percent of voters use, does require proof of citizenship.)
Second, the board claimed I am “pushing a bizarre plan to create two categories of voters.” That statement, too, was flat-out wrong.
In fact I am doing the opposite. Under my leadership, Kansas and Arizona have joined forces to sue the federal government’s Election Assistance Commission to change the federal form so that proof of citizenship can be requested from those Kansans who use the form, as Kansas law requires. We are suing in order to avoid the two-categories-of-voters plan that the editorial board criticized.
The way to avoid having two categories of voters is for Kansas and Arizona to bring such a lawsuit and win. The good news is that the Supreme Court specifically suggested this lawsuit in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council. So there is a very high probability that we will win.
In the election of 2010, I promised the voters that I would draft, implement and enforce a photo-ID and proof-of-citizenship law. Fully 84 percent of Kansans agree that is the right way to protect our elections. Now the editorial board is disappointed that I am making good on my promise to the people of Kansas.
Kansans need not worry. I will stand firm in protecting the integrity of elections, regardless of what The [Wichita] Eagle editorial board says.