Wichitans Barb Fuller and Carole Neal didn’t realize they were leaders of a communist organization.
“It was kind of shocking,” Neal said.
But according to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that’s what the League of Women Voters is – communist.
That’s absurd, of course – though not out of character for Kobach.
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Formed nearly 100 years ago from the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the league is dedicated to expanding voter participation so that all Americans can have a voice in our democratic republic. It conducts voter-registration drives and regularly hosts forums to help inform voters about candidates and issues.
But Kobach doesn’t like that the league filed a lawsuit arguing that Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, illegally granted Kansas, Georgia and Alabama permission to change federal voter-registration forms to require proof of citizenship.
Speaking at last weekend’s GOP state convention, Kobach complained: “The ACLU and their fellow communist friends, the League of Women Voters – you can quote me on that, the communist League of Women Voters – the ACLU and the communist League of Women Voters sued.”
Fuller, who is co-president of the League of Women Voters - Wichita Metro (and a member of the Wichita school board), chalked up Kobach’s comments to the name-calling that is all too prevalent in politics these days.
“It’s a lack of respect,” she said.
Neal, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, likened Kobach’s comments to bullying.
Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the national League of Women Voters, said in a statement: “Kobach, like any other politician, is entitled to his opinion. The league remains focused on protecting the rights of voters.”
Protecting voting rights should also be the priority of Kobach, the state’s chief election officer. Instead, he’s been focused on making it more difficult to register and vote.
The law he championed requiring proof of citizenship to register resulted in nearly 37,000 Kansans being placed on a “suspended” voters list. Starting last fall, Kobach began removing anyone from the list who didn’t provide proof of citizenship within 90 days. As of this week, there were about 11,000 people left on the list.
Though Kobach’s name-calling is troubling, Fuller sees a positive: It has gotten more people interested in the league and its work.
Here’s hoping it also made more people aware of Kobach’s true colors.