Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) faces calls for his resignation led by a group that contends his out-of-state work on immigration legislation made him "out of touch" and led to election problems in Kansas' biggest county.
KanVote, a voting advocacy coalition, issued the resignation call on Tuesday, saying that Kobach's out-of-state travel allowed problems counting and releasing vote totals in Sedgwick County last week. Louis Goseland, the KanVote coordinator, said 1,200 state residents have signed the petition demanding Kobach's resignation. Research by the group showed Kobach traveled out of state six times between the August primary and Nov. 6 election, primarily on immigration-related business, Goseland said. Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, had similar problems with the release of vote totals during the primary.
"It is his agenda," Goseland told HuffPost. "We have a secretary of state who is disconnected because he is rarely here. He is really out of touch with what it means to be a public servant."
Sedgwick County computer software problems delayed vote totals until midnight. The county also had problems with provisional ballots, voter identification rules and the inclusion of voter names in electronic rolls. County Elections Commissioner Tabitha Lehman, a Kobach appointee, is being questioned by Democrats, who complained she blocked poll agents from watching the counting of paper ballots. Democrats also are battling Kobach's office to release the names of voters who were given provisional ballots.
Kobach has dispatched a four-person team of investigators to Sedgwick County to probe the issues in Lehman's office. Kobach's spokeswoman, Kay Curtis, told HuffPost the team was to begin work Tuesday afternoon.
According to KanVote, Kobach traveled to Pennsylvania, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana to promote his immigration agenda, and made a trip to Missouri to promote voter identification. Kobach, who advised Mitt Romney on immigration, authored new immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama. He has said he does his immigration work in the evenings.
"It seems like poor judgement to travel the country to promote yourself as a politician instead of serving constituents," Goseland told HuffPost. "This is an ongoing trend with our secretary of state. He spends far too much time working on immigration. How many bad elections do we have to have before the secretary of state does his job? The people are fed up."
Goseland said Kansas election law changes that Kobach has pushed, including voter ID, have led to "mass confusion."
KanVote's petition comes a month after two activists filed a recall petition against Kobach. Kobach told HuffPost last month that he does not believe the recall petition will succeed. Kobach did not return messages about KanVote's call for his resignation.
Lehman told HuffPost that the delay in tallying votes was largely because of the state's redistricting and new vote-counting computer software. Lehman said representatives of her office, Kobach's office and a software consultant would review the computer system and change what isn't working.
Lehman also downplayed the provisional ballot issue, saying that only 95 out of 6,400 provisional ballots stemmed from voter ID problems. Most of the provisional ballots, she said, were because voters went to the wrong polling place or voted in person after requesting an absentee ballot. She said voter ID confusion only involved one election worker.
Lehman said she allowed people -- including the media -- to watch the paper ballot count. Levi Henry, who was in Lehman's office on election night representing Democrat Keith Humphrey's state Senate campaign, said "that is factually inaccurate."
Goseland questioned what he said is another trip planned by Kobach in the coming weeks.
"Even in the midst of this investigation, he'll be at a family conference with other celebrity politicians," Goseland said. "Does this guy take us seriously?"