Dead men don’t vote

08/31/2011 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:05 AM

Dead people aren’t voting in Sedgwick County. That’s a relief. Now we can get back to worrying about other nonexistent problems, such as that illegal immigrants are voting.

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale recently cross-checked the county’s voter database against the Social Security Death Index, national obituary websites and other sources. His office identified 141 people on the voter rolls who were deceased.

That’s not too surprising. A dead person can remain on the voter rolls for a variety of reasons, such as if the person moved out of state and then died without the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Office of Vital Statistics learning about it.

But it was good that Gale’s office cleaned up its records.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach thinks so, too. He applauded Gale’s efforts and encouraged other election commissioners across the state to cross-check their voter rolls.

“Every deceased voter that remains on Kansas’ voter rolls creates the risk of a fraudulent vote being cast,” Kobach said in a statement.

A risk, perhaps. A reality? Not in Sedgwick County.

Gale determined that no one claiming to be one of the dead people had voted after the person’s death.

That’s been the pattern with concerns about voter fraud in Kansas — lots of hype; little or no evidence.

For example, Kobach repeatedly has noted that “in Kansas, 221 incidents of voter fraud were reported between 1997 and 2010.” What he doesn’t clarify is that these were claims of fraud, not actual violations.

Gale reviewed the local claims of fraud in Kobach’s count. He determined that nearly all of them were either groundless or were honest mistakes by voters and their families — not fraud.

Kobach announced at a news conference last year that 1,966 deceased people were registered to vote in Kansas, and he said that one of those dead people, Alfred K. Brewer of Wichita, had voted recently. But an Eagle reporter followed up on this claim and found Brewer alive and raking leaves in his yard.

Kobach also has suggested that illegal immigrants have been voting. But there is no evidence that this is a problem — nor does it make any sense. Why would an illegal immigrant risk a felony offense by voting?

Nonetheless, the Kansas Legislature passed, and Gov. Sam Brownback signed, new laws requiring Kansans to present photo identification to vote and, starting in 2013, to provide proof of citizenship when registering for the first time.

That caused many to question whether the real purpose of the laws was to reduce turnout among lower-income voters.

Kobach also has argued that the new laws were needed because “fear that elections are being stolen erodes the legitimacy of our government.” But Kobach is the one scaring people into believing there is significant voter fraud.

Well, at least Sedgwick County voters now have one less thing to fear: seeing dead people at the polls.

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