Kansas' secretary of state is renewing his efforts to gain prosecutorial power as part of his voter identification push.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) plans to ask the state Legislature to give his office the power to investigate and prosecute all suspected voter fraud cases in the state, the Associated Press reports. He previously sought the prosecutorial power, which currently rests with county attorneys, in 2011 but was rebuffed by state lawmakers. Kobach has been a leading advocate for the state's stricter voter identification law, which he said is ending voter fraud in Kansas.
"County attorneys are so overworked, and these cases fall at the bottom of the stack," Kobach told the AP.
Kobach's proposal comes as more-conservative Republicans are poised to take control of the state Senate from a moderate Republican faction in January. Kobach, along with Gov. Sam Brownback (R), are considered leaders of the state's conservative Republican faction, which also controls the state House of Representatives. Nonetheless, Republican legislative leaders told AP they were concerned about expanding the powers of the secretary of state.
The secretary of state serves as Kansas' chief elections officer. The office also registers businesses and regulates sports agents, cemeteries and funeral homes.
Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka), the ranking minority member of the state House Elections Committee, confirmed that moderate Republican senators had pulled Kobach's request out of the voter ID bill last year. She said she is not surprised that he plans to renew his effort with a more-conservative legislature. Mah, who was narrowly defeated in the 2012 election, has long been Kobach's leading opponent in the state Legislature.
Mah, who argues that there is in fact little voter fraud in Kansas, said that Kobach has not been able to prove such cases exist. Earlier this year, Kobach had said issues relating to ACORN's voter registration practices led him to seek the voter ID law in Kansas.
"Kobach is all about expanding powers," Mah told HuffPost. "Frankly, if he got it, it is time for him to put up or shut up."
Mah said that she has sought material from Kobach's office about voter fraud cases and that the material she's obtained has largely related to retired Kansas residents who live part of the year in the state and part of the year elsewhere. She said these voters, with no ill intent, may end up registered and voting in both states.
"I can't wait for him to drag some snowbird off to jail," Mah said. "That will go over well with the public. They will see the emperor has no clothes. When he starts dragging elderly people out of nursing homes, we'll see how that goes over."