Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) told state senators on Tuesday that his office is not responsible for confusion over which types of high school identification cards could be used for voting under the state's voter ID law, instead shifting blame to county election officials.
Kobach, an adviser to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, told the state Senate Ethics and Elections Committee that he and his advisers had made a determination that public school ID cards could be used as voter ID and communicated the decision to county officials in August, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reported. Kobach said any doubt over the use of high school ID cards would have come from county officials.
Confusion occurred in recent weeks over whether public school ID cards could be used to vote, prompting Kobach to reissue the statement that they were acceptable in early October. County officials said Tuesday that they had not seen the original memo. Kobach said public school ID cards can be used since school districts are government agencies, even though high school ID cards are not mentioned in the state's voter ID law.
The Capitol-Journal reported earlier this month that Kobach's ruling upset private high school leaders in the state.
Mike Burrus, president of Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita, said "virtually all" of his voting-age students were likely to have driver's licenses, but he still found it curious that the law allows for voting with IDs issued by accredited private colleges, but not high schools.
"Certainly we feel that our student ID cards are every bit as legitimate as those issued by the public schools," Burrus said.
Kobach, the author of Arizona's controversial immigration law, has made voter ID one of his top issues as secretary of state. He has said the restrictive law will reduce voter fraud in Kansas. There were 221 reported cases of voter fraud in the state between 1997 and 2010. In June, Kobach told a conservative talk radio show in Wichita that the voter ID law has made elections easier to run in the state.
Kobach has faced criticism from legislative Democrats for his focus on the voter ID law, with Kansas Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka) saying that Kobach is focused on a "red herring" and not on issues related to accurate vote counts and voting machines. Mah has accused Kobach of trying to disenfranchise the "poor, women and minorities," which Kobach has said will not happen with the law.
Earlier this month, Bias Busters of Kansas, an anti-voter ID group, launched a recall petition against Kobach over the issue. A recall election against the first-term Republican is unlikely, given the state's complicated recall process. Kobach told HuffPost that he is not worried about the recall petition.
"My election in 2010 reflected the reality that Kansas voters overwhelmingly favor photo ID requirements at the polls and they support efforts to reduce illegal immigration," Kobach said at the time.