Politics & Government

Kansas House tentatively votes to give secretary of state prosecutorial authority

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (Feb. 17, 2015)
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (Feb. 17, 2015) AP

TOPEKA — By a narrow margin, the House tentatively voted to give Secretary of State Kris Kobach and future secretaries of state the authority to prosecute alleged voting fraud.

That authority is contained in Senate Bill 34.

The 63-57 vote came after a lengthy debate over Kobach's motivation for wanting prosecutorial authority and whether it would help or hurt Kansas elections.

Democrats and some Republicans sought to derail Kobach's request by offering a flurry of amendments, any one of which could have sent the measure to a conference committee and possibly delayed it until after the session's end.

They failed on all of them. The closest they got was an amendment that would have denied Kobach prosecutorial power while conferring it on Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

That amendment failed 60-61.

Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, carried the bill on the floor and argued that election crime is too serious to be left to local prosecutors.

He said voting crime "strikes at the very core of our democratic government" which is "one person, one legal vote."

He said the harm comes when illegal votes dilute the voting power of legal voters.

Dennis Highberger, D-Lawrence, said nobody questioned the validity of Kansas elections until a few years ago, and said "It's all due to the extreme partisanship of our current seretary of state."

If the majority holds its 63 votes into the final approval tally, likely to happen Thursday, the bill, which has already been approved in the Senate, would go straight to the governor's desk for signature into law.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita and an opponent of the bill, initially voted yes as a tactic allowing him to call for reconsideration.

Reconsideration was voted down 55-65.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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