Opinion Columns & Blogs

One way to cut Kansas spending

Some Kansans are worried that Secretary of State Kris Kobach is writing a regular column for Breitbart, a conservative website.

Doesn’t bother me. In fact, I see it as an opportunity. If Kobach can pretend to be a writer, I can pretend to be secretary of state.

I’d like to assume my duties now. I’ve got just two things on the agenda:

▪ Make it easier to vote.

Secretary Kobach has spent most of his career trying to make it harder for Kansans to cast ballots. He’s left Kansans deeply confused over their registration status and the status of provisional ballots.

I’m less afraid of voters than Kobach. Also, the problem in Kansas is that too few people vote, not too many.

So I’d abandon the Kobach-inspired photo ID requirement. The claim that a photo ID is needed to rent a video, and therefore acceptable for casting ballots, has always been specious: Voting is a right. Renting a DVD isn’t.

And the problem of voter impersonation, which photo ID requirements are designed to stop, is virtually non-existent.

I’d also forgo the secretary’s prosecutorial powers on voter cases. Local prosecutors can handle that work, which they’re paid to do.

I think we should vote on Saturday, not Tuesday. We should vote over a 24-hour period. Early and absentee voting should be easy.

Finally, I’d accept the federal registration form as valid for Kansas elections. Requiring documentary proof of citizenship is a cure in search of a disease. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “votes by non-citizens account for between 0.0003 percent and 0.001 percent of all votes cast.”

▪ Abolish the secretary of state’s job.

That’s right. Once I got voting squared away, I’d resign and ask the state’s voters to abolish my position.

The secretary of state’s job is largely clerical. He or she keeps the state’s records, handles business registrations, publishes state directories. Even the secretary’s election oversight is mostly administrative, since actual election duties are handled on a county-by-county basis.

There is no inherent reason Kansas needs an elected secretary of state. The duties of the office could easily be dispersed among existing state offices, with little or no diminution of service.

Other states agree. In 12 states, the secretary of state or secretary of the commonwealth is selected by the governor or the legislature, not elected by the people. Three states – Utah, Hawaii and Alaska – don’t even have a secretary of state.

Perhaps Kobach agrees with the non-essential nature of his job. Since his election, he’s found time to work on immigration laws in other states, serve as a GOP convention delegate (on the platform committee), argue voting cases as his own lawyer, advise President Donald Trump’s transition team, seek a job with the administration, serve as vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, run for governor, host a radio show, appear on Fox News and write a regular column for Breitbart.

Things are apparently slow back at the office.

Candidate Kobach insists Kansas needs to cut spending, not raise taxes, to make ends meet. His office will spend around $5.5 million this fiscal year. Seems like a good place to start.