Until Gov. Sam Brownback’s pen actually signed Senate Bill 34 into law Monday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had no power to prosecute voter fraud.

So imagine our surprise when the first thing Kobach talked about after being granted the power was that his office already was conducting investigations of perhaps 100 potential cases.

Under what authority was he acting?

Earlier this year in a letter, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom had specifically instructed Kobach: “Going forward, if your office determines there has been an act of voter fraud please forward the matter to me for investigation and prosecution.”

At the time, Grissom simply was clarifying Kobach’s wildly inaccurate claim the U.S. Attorney’s Office was refusing to prosecute the cases Kobach sent their way. It turned out Kobach had not sent a single one; it was just another exaggeration from the secretary of state who’s been lobbying hard for four-plus years to get prosecutorial power.

This year, the Legislature finally granted it. As the majority of this body believed in the fantasy that cutting taxes stimulates the economy, we were not surprised they believed the only way to stop the rampant voter fraud was to let Kobach himself deal with it.

The integrity with which he’ll proceed was revealed this week. If he truly believes he has 100 cases worth pursuing, why didn’t he turn them over to the local county attorney as prescribed by law or to the U.S. Attorney as demanded?

We would suggest it is because the secretary merely is playing games.

Rep. John Carmichael is thinking along the same lines. In a Tribune News Service story, the Wichita Democrat said: “Now (Kobach) is in a situation where he must put up or shut up, and he is under a powerful incentive now to commence prosecutions that no professional prosecutor would commence. And that’s very scary.”

Should Kobach’s prosecution attempts simply result in scaring older Kansans who attempt to vote on Election Day after forgetting they filled out an advance ballot, the secretary should be ashamed of himself. The same if his actions end up intimidating minority populations which Kobach regularly targets while searching for the elusive alien voters.

Despite Kobach’s protestations, Kansas is not experiencing voter fraud. The fantasy was spawned by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, and has led to varying degrees of voter suppression efforts around the country.

Only Kansas has been so bold as to give prosecutorial powers to its chief elections officer.

We find it difficult to understand why legislators would be willing to entrust Kobach with this power. He has done nothing to earn it.


Editorial by Patrick Lowry