Carieta Cain Grizzell: Change course on voting law

08/27/2014 7:03 PM

08/28/2014 12:03 AM

Secretary of State Kris Kobach continues to be nonresponsive to the needs of the good people of Kansas.

On Aug. 16, in response to our charge that Kobach had caused 24,000 voters to be held in suspension, the secretary stated that this figure was not accurate and that the state doesn’t even know how many voters were unable to vote because of lack of photo ID.

He went on to maintain that in 2012, after reconciliation, less than 0.007 percent (or 537) of ballots cast were tossed.

However, it was not until Jan. 1, 2013, that the proof-of-citizenship section of Kobach’s Secure and Fair Elections Act went into effect. And according his office’s own figures, as of July 28, 2014, nearly 24,000 voting-age Kansans were held in suspension, unable to vote (though some registrations were incomplete for reasons other than the citizenship requirement).

Kobach has failed to explain these issues to the good and dedicated people of Kansas, more and more of whom are finding their most basic right of the ballot now taken away. More important, he has failed to advise the public of the devastating impact on the very basic rights of Kansans.

It was largely because of the concern about voter fraud that Kobach championed the SAFE Act. Yet, over the past decade there have been a grand total of 10 reported cases of voter fraud filed in our state, not one of which has gone to trial. So it bears particular scrutiny that thousands of voters are being disenfranchised over a concern that bears little resemblance to the realities on the ground in the state.

In July 2013, more than 12,000 Kansans’ voter-registration applications had been placed in suspension as a result of the Jan. 1, 2013, proof-of-citizenship provision of Kobach’s SAFE Act, which represented close to a third of voter-registration applications submitted since enactment. By mid-July 2014, the registrations of 19,500 had been placed in suspension for the same reason.

What are we to make of this?

Kobach’s actions are disenfranchising a growing number of our state’s citizens.

We call on him to change course for the good of the people of Kansas.

Carieta Cain Grizzell is pastor of Grant Chapel AME Church in Wichita. She is also director of social action for the Midwest Conference of the AME Fifth Episcopal District.

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