Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is on a witch hunt. That is the only way to describe the method he’s employing to combat the alleged rampant voter fraud taking place.
Last week, the only state-level official in charge of elections in the country with prosecutorial power announced three more cases of fraud. This brings to a total of six since the Legislature granted him the authority to pursue cases on his own.
When questioned by the Topeka Capital-Journal if prosecutions are targeting individuals who didn’t know what they were doing was a crime, Kobach defended the charges.
“I think it’s absolutely essential we take the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ seriously,” Kobach said. “And I would add this, too: Typically, when someone is caught in a crime of this nature, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I did that.’ That’s not an uncommon first response.”
To be sure, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But we find ourselves as well questioning whether laws actually are being broken.
Consider the case of Randall K. Kilian. The former Hays resident who now resides in Castle Rock, Colo., is charged with three misdemeanor counts stemming from 2012. At the time, he was in the process of securing a retirement home while maintaining his house in Ellis County.
When contacted by The Hays Daily News, Kilian said he had received no correspondence, no phone call, no contact whatsoever with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. Nothing.
Yet his name and alleged crimes are being touted by Kobach as proof the elected official’s get-tough-on-voter-fraud approach is working. Whether a conviction results from Kilian’s Election Day activities appears irrelevant to the secretary. It strikes us that part of any prosecution should include speaking with the individual to determine his side of the story. Fact-gathering, if you will.
So what are the particulars in this case? Kilian recalls voting for local offices in Colorado, while casting ballots for national offices in Kansas.
“If anything, I didn’t know anything about (committing fraud),” Kilian said. “I bought a retirement home out here and setting some new things up. I voted in both, but I thought all I could do (in Colorado) was local stuff. If I made that mistake, it certainly wasn’t on purpose or to commit fraud.”
The Secretary of State’s Office, not surprisingly, did not return repeated requests for comment. We shall see Kobach’s argument when proceedings commence.
But if Kilian was a qualified elector in Kansas at the time and only submitted one ballot, what crime did he commit in this state? If he was a qualified elector in Colorado and voted for distinctly different races, what crime did he commit there?
The Brennan Center for Justice writes “voter fraud occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system.” It would appear some sort of intent to skew results would need to be established — something that could not be ascertained simply by examining records. At the least, an interview with the suspect would seem appropriate.
Obviously, Kobach does not share our perspective. That’s fine. But is it fair to have Kilian’s name plastered all over the media at this point in time? In a bid to prove voter fraud exists in Kansas, the secretary might just be opening himself up to defamation suits down the road. Such legal proceedings naturally would be paid for with tax dollars.
Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration isn’t bothered by such considerations. Kansas taxpayers are spending millions of dollars defending unconstitutional acts most reasonable individuals could tell were futile beforehand.
We believe the secretary’s ineptness as a prosecutor will prove his downfall in the next election. We’re just sorry ordinary citizens such as Randall Kilian have to suffer humiliation in the process.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry