The race for Kansas secretary of state comes down to one question: Is voter fraud a pressing problem in Kansas, tied to illegal immigration and corrupt politics, or is it largely a myth used to drum up votes?
Republican candidate Kris Kobach believes the former. Kobach said new voting rules and aggressive investigations of voting irregularities are necessary to safeguard Kansas elections. Potentially thousands of illegal immigrants — or even legal residents who aren’t citizens — are voting in Kansas, he argues.
“Voter fraud has become a very significant reality in our state,” Kobach said. “Every time someone’s vote is canceled out by a vote that is cast fraudulently, that’s a civil rights violation.”
Democratic incumbent Chris Biggs, however, said Kobach was whipping up an issue from a tiny number of unproven cases. He said the bigger problem was voter apathy, which new rules at the polls won’t help. He argued the office called for a nonpartisan administrator, not a lightning rod.
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“The secretary of state is not a terribly glamorous office, but it’s a very important one,” said Biggs, who was appointed earlier this year by Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson to finish the term of Republican Ron Thornburgh, who resigned. “We need to focus on what the duties of the office really are.”
The resulting debate has turned the normally ho-hum secretary of state position into one of the hottest races in the state. Joe Aistrup, political science professor at Kansas State University, said watching a secretary of state’s race most years “is like watching paint dry.” Not this year, thanks to Kobach.
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