An election worker checks a voter's drivers license as North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary election at a polling place, March 15, 2016,  in Charlotte, N.C. 
Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

Kobach accidentally makes a good point about voting rights

The Kansas City Star  reported the other day that the ACLU is poised to launch “a new effort to expand voting rights in all 50 states,” and the initiative will begin this weekend – in Lawrence, Kansas.

[T]hat location is no accident. It’s the home state of Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state and a prominent Republican advocate of restricting voter access. He is co-chair of President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate so-far unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

The ACLU campaign, called Let People Vote, will forgo a federal approach to expanding voting rights; indeed it ignores Congress altogether. Instead, it will pressure each state to adopt individually tailored plans, including proposals such as creating independent redistricting commissions and restoring voting access for convicted felons.

So far, so good. The funny part, however, came when Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach released a written statement responding to the ACLU’s new initiative. “Their campaign,” Kobach said, “should be entitled ‘Let People Vote Without Showing Photo ID.’”

Yes. Exactly. Kobach didn’t mean to, but he’s managed to get this part of the debate exactly right.

Restrictions such as voter-ID laws have been shown to suppress Americans’ access to the ballot box. These measures are clearly intended to address a fraud crisis that exists only in far-right imaginations, and they invariably target specific constituencies – the young, minorities, the elderly, and low-income voters – as part of a Republican campaign to target groups more likely to vote Democratic.

And with this in mind, Kris Koback’s correct on this narrow point: a voting-rights initiative is naturally going to oppose, among other things, voter-suppression techniques such as voter-ID laws. This isn’t a secret. The Kansas secretary of state’s office hasn’t let the cat out of the bag.

He’s describing a sensible, evidence-based policy position as if it were a criticism. Fair-minded observers should recognize this as nonsense.

Indeed, this dovetails nicely with a New York Times  report, published today, on new research that found “nearly 17,000 registered Wisconsin voters – potentially more – were kept from the polls in November by the state’s strict voter ID law.”

A campaign entitled “Let People Vote Without Showing Photo ID” really doesn’t sound that bad.