TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach, the Kansas Republican who helped lead Donald Trump's short-lived presidential voter fraud commission, wants to rid his state of ballot drop boxes and says as he runs for attorney general that discounting talk of fraud is “ignoring reality.”
The expanded use of drop boxes for mailed ballots in 2020 didn’t lead to any widespread problems, according to an Associated Press survey of state election officials across the U.S. that revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft that could have affected the results. And Kobach's position puts him at odds not only with Democrats and voting-right advocates, but Kansas' Republican secretary of state, Scott Schwab, who says the state's elections are secure and drop boxes are safe.
Kobach, who was secretary of state for eight years before Schwab, said Wednesday that allowing drop boxes prevents Kansas from enforcing a 2021 law against what Republicans call ballot “harvesting,” making it illegal for individuals to deliver ballots for more than 10 other people. Voting-rights advocates see the law as unnecessary for securing elections and contend it only hinders assistance to poor, minority and elderly voters.
Kobach argued that with drop boxes, people can get a voter’s permission to deliver ballots and identify themselves on the ballot envelope with a false name and drop the signed enveloped in the drop box and officials can’t see that someone has delivered too many ballots. Election officials say the ballot would still be legal if the voter is properly registered and wanted to vote.
“There are still other layers of protection, but it makes our anti-harvesting statute pretty, pretty weak when drop boxes can be used to circumvent it," Kobach said.
Kobach declared Tuesday night in a debate with Democratic opponent Chris Mann that the state “needs to get rid of drop boxes." He said Wednesday that as attorney general he would urge the GOP-controlled Legislature to enact a law barring counties from using them.
“Those on the left who say there is no election fraud are simply ignoring reality,” Kobach said during the debate.
Mann said in a statement after the debate that eligible voters should have “equal access to the ballot box.”
"Ballot drop boxes make that possible,” he said.
As attorney general, Kobach could prosecute cases of alleged voter fraud, but he would have no power to tell counties how to run elections. He acknowledged that all he could do about ballot drop boxes is urge the Legislature to ban them.
Schwab has pushed back hard against attacks on drop boxes and said in a statement Wednesday that counties have used them for decades. Kansas counties deployed 191 of them in 2020, averaging one box for about every 10,000 registered voters.
“It’s an efficient way for Kansans to return their advance-by-mail ballot without allowing the federal government to be involved,” he added. “Drop boxes are more secure than the post office.”
Kobach's race this year is an attempt at a political comeback after he gave up the secretary of state's office to run unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and lost a U.S. Senate primary in 2020. He championed stricter voting and voter ID laws years before Trump named him vice chair of his election fraud commission in 2017.
With the wide circulation among Republicans of Trump’s false statements that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Kobach has stopped short of publicly doubting Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
But in his interview Wednesday, Kobach said “there’s no question” fraud occurred in 2020 at least the battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania. He added that Americans will never know “how many fraudulent ballots were cast.”
An Associated Press review last year of every voter fraud case from 2020 in the six presidential battleground states disputed by Trump found fewer than 475, not enough to make any difference.
Kobach still touts more than a dozen voter fraud prosecutions he launched as secretary of state, most over people voting in different places in the same election. Kobach also still takes credit for a 2013 Kansas law that required new voters to provide papers proving their U.S. citizenship to register.
The federal courts struck that law down. A judge found it only nominally prevented non-citizens from registering but violated Kansas residents right to vote. During its first three years on the books, 35,000 Kansas residents couldn't register, amounting to one in seven applicants.
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