Published on -6/5/2013, 7:53 AM
The reasons cited were different, but the result was the same: Kansas legislators did not grant expanded prosecutorial power to Secretary of State Kris Kobach for the second year in a row.
The only surprise this year was a reshuffled Legislature that appeared full of members willing to accept Kobach's paranoia. In fact, as late as last week, all signs pointed toward giving him the authority to chase down the rampant voter fraud allegedly taking place in Kansas and bringing the perpetrators to justice. But early Sunday morning, after passing tax reform measures and the budget, lawmakers in the House rejected Kobach's power grab.
"It was bad timing for the bill," said House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab.
It also was bad luck for Kobach that his initiative got packaged with other crime-fighting measures such as collecting DNA samples from citizens suspected of crimes but not convicted. That potential violation of civil liberties led 64 legislators to reject the bill.
Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, wanted to accommodate Kobach but simply couldn't.
"I just have a problem with taking your DNA because you're accused of something," said the same conservative legislator who once suggested shooting undocumented immigrants from helicopters. "Now, once you're guilty, I have no problem."
Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, simply didn't want to accommodate Kobach.
"It's a little scary, giving him this kind of power," Sawyer said. "People don't want Kobach to go after the little old ladies who couldn't remember if they'd sent in their absentee ballots and go and check on election day -- and get prosecuted for trying to vote twice."
Although the Senate did vote this weekend to make Kobach a prosecutor, last year it was that chamber's moderate Republicans who said they didn't want the secretary to wield such power.
Kobach hasn't commented publicly on his latest defeat yet, but we only can hope he doesn't feel compelled to bring it up again next session. Leave prosecution to the capable and trained prosecutors found in every county as well as the attorney general's office.
The secretary of state needs to concentrate on his defined duties as chief elections officer, business registrar and regulator of sports agents, cemeteries and funeral homes.
If Kobach still has free time after taking care of the state's business in addition to all the moonlighting he does nationwide, perhaps it would be best spent finally getting around to removing yardsigns left over from the 2010 campaign. The oversized placard on Interstate 70 near Abilene would be our recommended starting point.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry