Opinion Columns & Blogs

Sulma Arias and Reuben Eckels: Uniting to put an end to abuses


Kris Kobach’s legacy as Kansas’ secretary of state has been defined by his relentless effort to tamper with the ballot box to propel himself – and his own brand of the politics of hate – to national prominence.

Kobach worked hard to keep Kansas voters away from the ballot box in 2011 by pushing for the passage of heavy-handed voter restrictions. The law has made us the first state in the country with second-class voters, who can cast ballots at the federal level but find themselves disenfranchised in our own backyard. And he’s spent the past three years jetting around the country to defend similar legislation, instead of doing the job voters elected him to do.

In recent weeks, Kobach has been at it again. This time, he tried to tamper with the ballot itself by refusing to remove the name of former Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Chad Taylor, at Taylor’s own request. Kobach then sent out ballots to our troops with a disclaimer that the ballot may not count.

The only thing more shameful than Kobach’s abuse of office is the end for which he’s using it, in our view: creating a culture of fear to intimidate people of color and keep them away from the polls.

African-Americans and Latinos have been here before – and we’ve won. Nearly 50 years ago, we fought back against discriminatory voting measures across the South and won the historic national Voting Rights Act.

Today, African-American and Latino voters make up nearly a quarter of our state’s voting population, and we’re uniting to make sure we can put an end to Kobach’s abuses. We’ve come together, along with working families of all backgrounds, to form Kansas People’s Action. Together we’re reaching out to more than 100,000 African-American and Latino Kansas voters who are already registered to vote but until now haven’t been turning out in midterm elections. These voters are tired of the politicians like Kobach.

Kansas was founded as a free state in 1861 after years of fighting off pro-slavery forces. We still believe in that vision of a state founded on equality by a people who are willing to fight for it.

On Nov. 4 we’re going to vote for the Kansas we believe in – where all families are treated equally, where our elected officials serve everyone, not just themselves, and where we’re working together to improve our schools, create good jobs and strengthen health care. And that means we’re going to show Kobach and his friends the door.

Sulma Arias of Wichita is the executive director of Kansas People’s Action. Reuben Eckels is the deputy director of Kansas People’s Action and pastor of New Day Christian Church in Wichita.