A new report which has ranked Kansas as one of six states most likely to have problems with accurate vote counts, led a Democratic legislator to call on the state's Republican secretary of state to end his focus on voter identification and focus instead on election administration.
Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka), the ranking minority member of the House Elections Committee, wants Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) to start addressing issues related to voting machines and vote counting, instead of his promotion of voter ID cards. In the report -- released this week by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and Rutgers Law School -- Kansas was cited for lacking voting machines that produce a paper trail, having no statewide audit of elections, and allowing military and overseas voters to send in absentee ballots via unsecured email.
Mah noted that while she hasn't reviewed the report, she also isn't surprised by the low rating. "If the secretary wasn't so interested in potential fraud, we'd look at a paper trail," Mah said.
While the elections committee hasn't studied the voting machine issue at length, Mah said she is concerned at not having a paper trail at every machine in the state. and fears the state's voting equipment being hacked and its vote count compromised.
"You can make a receipt when you make a bank transaction," Mah said.
According to state elections director Brad Bryant, Kansas uses optical scan machines which produce a paper trail and touchscreens that do not; choosing machines is left to individual county governments. Many of the optical scan machines were purchased with federal funds from the Help America Vote Act following the 2000 presidential election. Under state law, no statewide ballot audit is required, according to Bryant, but public demonstrations of the machines are conducted before and after elections. He said there have been no issues with lost votes with the machines.
In Shawnee County, which includes Topeka, county elections commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter, said voters can vote either on a touchscreen or with optical scan. County officials voted against moving totally to optical scan due to the cost, she said.
Bryant noted that the state is also addressing the email issue, saying that email still will be an option due to the lack of reliable mail delivery in certain areas, including Afghanistan, but there will be an option for encryption offered for security. He also said voters are told in advance that they are waiving the right to privacy when they email a ballot overseas.
Mah told HuffPost she does not believe there is a history of fraud issues related to voter ID and that Kobach should stop focusing on a "red herring," but Kobach has said implementing the IDs will reduce potential fraud. In a recent Heritage Foundation forum Kobach attended that ACORN led voter registration issues sparked interest in the issue.
"I know he was turning over every rock looking for fraud," Mah said of Kobach.
Kobach -- who was unavailable for comment, according to a spokesperson -- has defended the voter ID requirement at forums around the state and said that he does not believe it will lead to any voters not being able to vote. On a conservative talk radio show in Wichita last month, Kobach said the voter ID law has made elections easier to run.
Mah reiterated that she believes the requirement will hurt Democratic voters and accused Kobach -- a leader of the state's conservative Republican faction -- of trying to suppress Democratic voters.
"I think that Kris is a very smart man, he knows that people from both parties will be disenfranchised," Mah said. "Because poor, women and minorities will not have the ID, it will impact Democrats more."
Kobach has said he does not believe the law will impact minority voters.
Mah also believes that Kobach should have done more on voter ID education, noting that the state has spent $100,000 on efforts, while other states spent more. Kobach has toured the state holding forums and speaking on the issue. Mah is planning to file a records request with Kobach's office for information about the voter id promotion following the Aug. 7 primary election.
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