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Voter Turnout In Kansas

By Connor Schultz
On November 14, 2016

Graphic courtesy of the Kansas Secretary of State Office

In an election marred by scandal, entertainment and outrage, the only thing that mattered were the votes cast.

But how do votes cast in Kansas and voter turnout numbers compare to votes cast in other states, like Oregon?

The Pew Charitable Trusts website created an Elections Performance Index (EPI) that compares states with one another on factors from turnout rate to voter wait times. In states such as Minnesota (which ranks third in turnout), the key to higher voter turnout is removing barriers to voting. This in turn leads to higher civic engagement and an overall greater satisfaction with the voting process.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 70 percent of Minnesotans expressed confidence in their state government, while just 45 percent of Kansans expressed confidence, earning the sixth worst spot in the nation.

While the lagging state economy and an unpopular governor could be partly to blame for a lack of public confidence in Kansas state government, a decrease in voter turnout stifles civic engagement, creating a vicious cycle of a continued erosion of public support in the political process.

However, there is hope. On Nov. 4, a district court judge permanently blocked Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s dual voter registration system. In essence, this created a system where voters who had failed to provide proof of citizenship burdens could only vote in federal elections. With this ruling, the tiered system has been removed.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks concluded, “The court finds that an injunction is, overwhelmingly, in the public interest.”

If the public interest is in a single tiered system, why isn’t the states? If Minnesota and Oregon’s interests are to boost voter turnout which increases civic participation, why did Kansas not do the same thing?

It’s simple, the office of the Kansas Secretary of State has changed from an office intended to protect the integrity of elections and instead shifted to an office that has spent millions of Kansas’ taxpayer dollars on defending unconstitutional voting restrictions in court.

In addition to spending money defending voting restrictions that have been struck down time and time again, Kansas is the only state in the country to grant its Secretary of State prosecutorial power to investigate “voter fraud” -- voter fraud that Kobach said last month, “could tip the presidential election in swing states.” So not only does the Secretary of State spend taxpayer money defending stringent voter restrictions in court, he also spends taxpayer dollars prosecuting voter fraud cases that are as few and as far between as people being struck by lightning.

A political witch hunt over a problem that does not exist should not be the defining principle in a public servant.

Our problems in the state legislature and in our nation’s capital did not magically disappear after Nov. 8, but the solutions needed to revitalize our state economy should come from diverse minds interested in broadening civic engagement at a time when far too many are interested in stifling voter’s true power, the power that lies at the polls.

The time of wasting taxpayer dollars in the name of voter fraud should cease immediately. When the state’s interests do not align with the public interests, a change in priorities and in officeholders is not only needed, it is necessary.

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