By Brad Friedman on 9/5/2013, 6:32pm PT  

From AP this week...

Critics of a Kansas law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering urged legislators Tuesday to repeal the policy during their special session, but such an effort immediately stalled.

About 100 people gathered at the Statehouse for a rally sponsored by KanVote, a Wichita-based group that opposed the law, which took effect in January. The NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Kansas, the state's leading gay-rights organization, also called publicly for the law's repeal.

The law took effect in January, backed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and fellow Republicans, who view it as a way to prevent non-citizens from voting improperly. But more than 15,000 legal Kansas residents' voter registrations are on hold because they have yet to provide proper documents, meaning they can't legally vote.

Wow. 15,000 legal voters stopped from voting. Kansas must have a terrible problem with non-citizens voting! After all, that's all the state's Republican Sec. of State Kobach (who also wrote Arizona's "Papers Please" law) ran on in 2010: stopping "voter fraud"! In fact, his own personal website warns even today: "In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive."

"Pervasive"? Really? So, how many cases of non-citizens voting has he turned up in the two and half years since being elected as Secretary of State?...

The exact numbers are difficult to find, for some odd reason. But he told the Huffington Post just this week: "We identified 15 aliens registered to vote."

"15?" Kobach is willing to block the otherwise legal right to vote for at least 15,000 of his own constituents because of "15 aliens registered to vote"?

And did any of those 15 alleged "aliens" actually vote in any Kansas election? Or, like so many similar cases where GOP Sec. of States are playing the same game (like in Colorado and in Florida), was it simply a clerical error, where the registered voter in question never even cast an actual vote or was actually a citizen after all? Who knows? Kobach didn't say as much, so...draw your own conclusions. After all, Kobach says the problem "has become pervasive". He just can't identify it as such, even though, as Secretary of State, he has immediate access to all voting records and can refer cases to prosecutors for arrest. I wonder why he hasn't?

Perhaps he's gun shy after declaring he'd found a "dead voter" while running for office, only to learn later that the voter was very much alive. Or perhaps, more likely, it's because he's just a liar. Media Matters, long ago, built a page documenting his lies. And even the otherwise staid Kansas City Star noted in July --- far too politely for my taste --- Kobach "has a way of lying" about voter fraud.

After all, this is the guy who, as we noted back in 2010, announced to his supporters on his Election Night: "Our campaign had an undeniable, unmistakable message, and that message could be summed up in three words, three words which were on every one of our 4 billion highway signs: 'stop voter fraud.'"

Ya think, after all that, and two years in office he might have been able to come up with some of that "pervasive" fraud, no? No, because it's never been about "voter fraud", it's about stopping legitimate, Democratic-leaning voters from being able to cast their legal vote.

During the special session of the Kansas legislature this week, called to correct a problem with a new law meant to ensure convicted murderers spend at least 50 years in prison, Democratic state Rep. Jim Ward proposed an amendment to the "proof of citizenship" voting law passed by Republicans last year. The amendment, according to AP, was meant to "allow new voters to simply affirm that they are citizens, rather than requiring them to produce a birth certificate, passport or some other document. But the Republican-controlled House ruled it out of order."

AP goes on to report, however, that the 15,000+ legal voters who are currently barred from voting in Kansas is not really a problem to SoS Kobach or the Republicans who run the legislature...

Kobach has argued that Kansas is actually being lenient by allowing people to fill out registration forms and present proof of their U.S. citizenship later. House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab, a conservative Olathe Republican who backed the law, acknowledged it may need to be revised but said lawmakers need to more time assess its effects.

Also, Schwab noted, the ACLU, NAACP and Equality Kansas have threatened to file a federal lawsuit over the law, and Kobach is pursuing his own litigation to make sure federal officials don't impede the state's enforcement of the law. The legal challenges need to play out first, Schwab said.

"This thing hasn't even been in effect for a year yet," Schwab said. "We just need to be patient."

So, got that? You thousands of otherwise perfectly legal Kansas voters who have improperly lost your right to vote "just need to be patient". Someday, maybe, you'll get that right back, according to Republicans in Kansas. Maybe.

I have found myself in friendly dispute, at times, with other voting rights advocates who have said I've been to harsh on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for his often-woeful defense of voting rights. But the fact that the U.S. Dept. of Justice has not, long ago, filed a Voting Rights Act complaint against the state of Kansas (and Tennessee and several other states where the right to vote has been abridged without federal complaint) underscores the point I've been making.

As I discussed with Ring of Fire's Mike Papantonio last week on the Thom Hartmann Show, I'm willing to reset the clock (at least in regard to voting rights) with Holder following the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act earlier this summer and his subsequent vow to use "every tool" at DoJ's disposal to fight for voting rights on the heels of the horrific SCOTUS decision. Holder's efforts in Texas, so far, have been both laudable and promising.

But it would be nice to see a bit more aggressive action from the feds in states like Kansas, which may not be either a swing-state (like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where the DoJ is eying suits against both state's radical Republican voter suppression laws) or soon-to-be swing-states (like Texas, where demographics will soon afford white Republicans minority status).

Yes, even voters in "red" states deserve to be able to vote and have their votes counted and counted accurately and transparently. It's an outrage that 15,000 have been barred from voting since the beginning of the year, and who knows how many were not able to vote last year under Kobach and the Republicans polling place Photo ID restriction?

If Holder is to keep his promise, the DoJ should start filing lawsuits in such places sooner rather than later --- before even more otherwise legal voter has also lost his or her once-legal right to vote.

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