Surrounded by about 50 enthusiastic well-wishers, former Republican state Sen. Jean Schodorf on Wednesday formally announced she’s running for secretary of state as a Democrat.
“I don’t like to say this very often about people, but (Secretary of State) Kris Kobach is bad at his job,” Schodorf said to enthusiastic applause.
Schodorf accused Kobach of misleading the Legislature when he shepherded through a law requiring documented proof of citizenship to register to vote. She said Kobach knew it would result in thousands of voters being suspended from casting ballots, but didn’t tell lawmakers when he was pushing the law.
The proof-of-citizenship law generally requires prospective voters to provide a birth certificate or passport to complete their registration. It’s separate from and substantially stricter than a companion Kobach-backed measure requiring photo ID at polling places.
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“Many (suspended registrants) are women whose names have changed,” Schodorf said. “They’re having to pay a lot of money to follow the paper trail so they can earn their way to vote, and that’s not right.”
As of Wednesday, 17,112 voters were suspended from voting because they haven’t provided citizenship documents. That’s down from 18,562 last week, when the Division of Motor Vehicles sent a bulk feed of citizenship proofs it had on file to Kobach’s office, officials said.
Schodorf said if she’s elected, she will work to create a system so the secretary of state’s office could immediately check registrations against birth records at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
“It’s ridiculous that two agencies that are two blocks apart can’t talk together,” she said.
Kobach responded that Schodorf is late in criticizing lack of coordination with KDHE.
“Actually, that’s already happening,” he said. “We’re already doing what current law allows us to.”
And Kobach denied having misled the Legislature, saying the law he wrote simply allows people to take as long as they need to bring in their documents after filling out a registration form.
“It’s impossible for anyone to predict how long it will take for people to complete their registration,” he said.
A political moderate, Schodorf represented a northwest Wichita district in the Senate from 2001 until January of this year. She switched parties from Republican to Democrat after she was targeted by state business interests and lost her seat in the 2012 Republican primary to then-City Councilman Michael O’Donnell.
Schodorf’s only announced competitor in the Democratic primary, Mission Hills online merchant Randy Rolston, announced earlier this week that he is withdrawing and endorsing Schodorf.