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Kobach Claims Illegal Immigrant Voting Is Rampant

Via Talking Points Memo, Kris Kobach, the Republican nominee for Kansas Secretary of State who is quickly making a name for himself as an anti-immigration hardliner, is hoping to win votes by claiming illegal immigrants are fraudulently registering to vote in large numbers in his state. “Voter fraud is a very real problem in Kansas,” he wrote on his website. “Election crimes have been documented across the state — from fraudulent registrations, to vote-by-mail fraud. … In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.”

Is it true? It doesn’t matter, Kansas State University political science professor Joe Aistrup told the Kansas City Star last week. “Kobach has caught the wave of the immigration debate,” he said. “It matters little whether his claims about voter fraud are true. Connect anything to illegal immigration in this climate, it’s going to have traction.”

For Kobach, especially, it’s a strategy that makes sense. Kobach is known around the country as the man who helped write Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law, and he has assisted other states to draft anti-illegal immigration legislation. He is now working with Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce to write legislation denying birthright citizenship to children born to illegal immigrant parents. Kobach’s critics argue his anti-illegal immigration work could distract from official secretary of state duties — he said it is only a hobby and likened himself to another candidate who plays the banjo — but his decision to fight illegal immigrant voter fraud is a perfect way to blend his pet project with a secretary of state priority.

If elected, Kobach wants to require proof of citizenship at the polls, and received backing for his plan from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), who is almost certain to be elected governor next month.

In Colorado, Republican state Rep. Ted Harvey told me last week he plans to introduce similar legislation for voter registration after 12,000 registered voters in the state failed to check a box affirming they were U.S. citizens. This may not have been because they were not citizens, but Harvey said illegal immigrants could easily register to vote because they do not have to show a birth certificate or passport.

It’s tough to say with certainty that this does not happen. But even for legal immigrants, there can be harsh penalties for registering to vote as a non-citizen. A 1996 law made it illegal for non-citizens to claim citizenship, meaning even those with green cards can face deportation for registering to vote. There is anecdotal evidence that this happens each election to a number of legal immigrants who don’t realize they aren’t allowed to vote.

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