Secretary of State Kris Kobach has not given up his position that Democrats must appoint a replacement for Chad Taylor. He says overseas voters may have to cast a second ballot later. The 526 ballots to be mailed by Saturday to overseas civilians and military personnel include a disclaimer that new ballots will be printed if a court forces Democrats to name a replacement candidate. Some ballots from Johnson County went out Thursday with Taylor's name. They were amended Friday.
As of late Friday afternoon, the procedural nuttiness that has plagued Kansas U.S. Senate race appeared to have run its course. The state Supreme Court had ruled that Democrat Chad Taylor could, in fact, remove his name from the statewide ballot, creating a one-on-one match-up pitting Sen. Pat Roberts (R) against Greg Orman (I)..
What's more, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who oversees state elections and just happens to be part of Roberts' re-election campaign committee, appeared to be in retreat, directing officials to begin mailing ballots -- as mandated by federal law -- to Kansans voting from overseas without a Democratic candidate, as per Democrats' wishes.
There was, however, a catch. Kobach, who's making no real effort to hide his brazen partisanship, continues to make unprecedented moves, turning Kansas' race into a circus with no modern parallel. From the Wichita Eagle over the weekend:
As Rachel put it on Friday's show in reference to events in Kansas, "[T]he political process in one U.S. state today fell completely apart."
Kobach's disclaimer alone belongs in some kind of Hall of Shame.
"You may vote using the ballot accompanying this letter as soon as you receive it, or you may wait to vote until you've received further notification from us," Kobach told overseas voters. His disclaimer added, "If a replacement ballot is sent to you, and you have already returned the ballot that accompanies this letter, only your replacement ballot will be counted."
If you're a Kansan serving in, say, Afghanistan right now, and you want to participate in your home state's election, what exactly are you supposed to make of something like this? The Kansas Secretary of State sent you a ballot so you could participate in your own democracy, but he also included a note telling you the ballot may not count, depending on his ongoing efforts to help the Republican whose campaign committee he's currently serving on.
There's no great mystery here as to why Kobach, labeled "America's Worst Republican" in John Judis' latest piece, is resorting to ridiculous tactics. Roberts, an unpopular, longtime incumbent, was in good shape to win yet another term when the opposition vote was divided between Taylor (the Democrat) and Orman (the Independent). Taylor's withdrawal created the GOP's nightmare scenario: with Senate control on the line, a Republican incumbent suddenly seemed quite vulnerable in one of the nation's reddest states.
But panic is one thing; Kobach's over-the-top antics are another.
At this point, the far-right Secretary of State has already lost one court fight, but he now seems poised to launch another. Kobach has ordered Kansas Democrats to pick a U.S. Senate candidate to replace Taylor, a demand that Dems have chosen to ignore, citing the pesky detail that Kobach has no authority to order them to do anything.
Making matters slightly worse, Kobach has also suggested he might try to delay elections in Kansas a week, pushing Election Day to Nov. 12. Why? Because Kobach says so. Can he do that? By all appearances, no, though Kansas' Secretary of State, who's also up for re-election himself, is already pulling out all the stops to rig the elections for his party's candidates, so he seems to have concluded, "Why not?"
It's been a while since Americans have seen anything like this.