Monday, December 22, 2014

Vote against voter suppression


Is the ability to vote a right or a privilege? That issue is at the heart of a wide chasm between two men vying in the Aug. 5 primary to be the Republican Party’s nominee for Kansas secretary of state.

Incumbent Kris Kobach thinks voting is a privilege — one requiring higher standards than those for obtaining a Kansas driver’s license — with a photo ID or birth certificate needed to prove American citizenship. Rather than merely putting down a few speed bumps in front of potential voters, Kobach favors building brick walls where Americans have to prove their mettle to get to vote. Of course, he doesn’t just impose his point of view on Kansans, he happily trots across the country to strengthen other states’ grip on the voter rolls too.

Kobach’s opponent, Scott Morgan, has an entirely different perspective. Morgan, Lawrence, thinks Americans have a right to vote and wants to do all he can to empower citizens to take advantage of this inherent right. He believes the right to vote provides the foundation for all of Americans’ other rights.

If any office in state government ought to be non-political (with the officeholder’s political party being virtually unknown), it would be the secretary of state. Every Kansan should be confident his or her rights are respected and that he or she will be heard regardless of party affiliation — or even lack of party affiliation. Who wants a partisan hack administering elections and voter registration — not to mention handling campaign finance reports and registering lobbyists — and leaving voters skeptical the job was done ethically and without political bias?

Another distinct contrast between the two candidates: Morgan thinks the secretary of state position is a full-time job — one for which he believes he would provide the tradition of quiet competence to the many administrative aspects to the position, which also is responsible for registering business entities and trademarks, as well as administering various statutory publications, census adjustments and the state’s address confidentiality program. Kobach, on the other hand, is a career politician and partisan who fosters fear through his brash, smug and paternalistic manner and believes he is ordained to right all the wrongs of lax — though not proven to be problematic — 150-year-old voting laws.

Kobach, who spends his “free” time helping other states devise legislation to make their local voting processes more difficult, likened his zealous pursuit of the law changes in other states — for which he earns ample legal fees while also employed by Kansas taxpayers — as his personal hobby. Who is he trying to kid? If he has that much free time (while on the job), his office is either overstaffed or he isn’t getting the real job done. Perhaps both. “Some lawmakers play golf,” he said Tuesday at Ottawa’s candidate forum, “I do this and will continue to do so.” Those who play golf do it as an getaway, not as another form of income related to their already-paid, elected positions.

Though Kansas long has had quiet leadership in the secretary of state’s office, that isn’t a requirement. Such focus, however, ought to be an essential element for the officeholder, and it should be on administering the duties of the secretary of state’s office as noted above. Focus of the officeholder should not be a personal political agenda nor on increasing visibility to earn a second income. Kobach’s freelance work is a problem. His contrary attitude and actions against voters — especially those who might not vote the way he wants — is problem enough without returning him to office for a second term.

Voter suppression is at odds with the secretary of state’s role. Voters have a right to be heard — and they should use that right to support Scott Morgan. He’s the candidate more likely to bring respect back to the office and to get the job done for all voters, rather than just for those who can boost his political ambitions.

Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher 

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