Elizabeth Ensley to run for secretary of state

Elizabeth "Libby" Ensley, the Shawnee County election commissioner, filed Monday to run for Kansas secretary of state.

Ensley called for government photo identification to be shown by voters at every election to prevent election fraud. She promised that the requirement would not restrict the elderly and others who could legitimately vote but did not have photo identification.

"The politics of fear and intimidation end here today," she said.

A Republican, Ensley is expected to face former Kansas GOP Chairman Kris Kobach and J.R. Claeys of Salina, a former CEO of the National Association of Government Contractors, in the August primary.

The Democratic primary features incumbent Chris Biggs and state Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City. Biggs was appointed to the position after former Secretary Ron Thornburg, a Republican, left to take a job in the private sector.

Thornburg has endorsed Ensley.

Ensley, 51, said of all the candidates, she was the only one with experience regulating elections — 11 years working in the Secretary of State's Office and 18 as the Shawnee County election commissioner.

As commissioner, Ensley said she investigated, prosecuted and convicted 12 people of election fraud.

"I want to make sure we have safe, secure and accurate elections," she said.

Ensley followed her morning announcement in Topeka with a similar event in Wichita.

Among the supporters who attended were former state Sen. Pat Ranson and retired Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Marilyn Chapman.

Ranson served eight years in the Senate and was a longtime leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party. She has largely stepped out of the spotlight in recent years.

But she said Ensley is the rare candidate "worth spending my time coming out of retirement to support."

Chapman served 22 years as Sedgwick County's top election official before retiring in 2003.

She worked closely with Ensley on election matters for years and said she thinks Ensley is best qualified to take over the secretary of state's duties.

Chapman's duties as election commissioner required her to be politically neutral and she has not been an active campaigner for candidates since leaving the post.

"This is a different kind of endeavor than I've had before," Chapman said. "I guess I feel more passionately about this race than any of the others that are going on."

Ensley said she took her inspiration from her great grandmother, Belle Tillotson, and displayed Tillotson's voter registration card from July 26, 1918 as a reminder of the importance of elections.

While women gained the right to vote in national elections in 1920, in Kansas they could participate in statewide elections starting in 1912 and local elections starting in the 1800s, Ensley said.