COLUMNS

Patrick R. Miller: Where is the beef in voter fraud claims in Kansas?

Patrick R. Miller
Special to Gannett Kansas

I recently wrote a column discussing how baseless claims of widespread and systematic voter fraud hurt democracy in Kansas.

Readers statewide sent me thoughtful feedback. Some was positive, like the Republican county clerk who thanked me for defending local election officials. I want to engage here, though, with common themes from the negative feedback.

One theme: Kansans don’t trust our elections.

Any mistrust of our elections is worrisome. However, the mistrustful are still the minority. The 2020 FOX News Voter Analysis Survey showed that 68% of Kansans were very or somewhat confident that votes in “the presidential election in the U.S.” would be “counted accurately.” Only 6% had no confidence. Sixty-three percent of Kansans were very or somewhat confident that ineligible persons “will not be allowed to vote.” Only 13% had no confidence.

Another theme: Voter fraud is common in Kansas.

Readers differed on their “proof” for this fraud. Some suggested that the fraud is so well hidden in Kansas — without explaining how — that it is unprovable. Others broadly claimed that the fraud is obvious but intentionally ignored by the media.

Some readers commented that Democratic victories in Johnson County prove that fraud occurred. Political outcomes that we dislike do not prove fraud. Both parties lose elections. That doesn’t prove that either is a victim of electoral “cancel culture” or that elections are fraudulent.

One reader cited the growing Latino vote in Southwest Kansas as evidence of fraud. Diversity among voters in diverse communities doesn’t prove fraud either.

Usually, credible evidence is essential for proving claims, and lack of evidence doesn’t mean conspiracy or ignorance. Plaintiffs bear the burden of proof, not defendants—at least in court, if not politics.

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab told KSNT News in November that “Kansas is not experiencing any issues with voter fraud.” If you don’t believe him, contact his office at 785-296-4575 or sos@ks.gov.

Another theme: Denying politics.

Voter fraud accusations and their proposed solutions have always been political, no matter how real fraud has been historically. These claims have always involved political winners and losers.

Circa 1800, the rich routinely accused middle class white men of lying about their wealth to gain suffrage in states with economic restrictions on voting. The solution: Task local tax assessors with creating the first voter registration systems, and allow them often unsupervised power to disenfranchise eligible middle class citizens.

Fraud claims later became a weapon for anti-city politics. Many states only required voter registration in cities, ignoring potential fraud in rural communities. In the 1920s, Kansas only applied voter registration to cities of over 2,000 people.

One reader commented that “we can’t ignore people who think that Kansas elections are a sham.” True. Mistrust is alarming.

But how much should we cater to that mistrust?

How strictly will we limit voting in Kansas to secure an already secure system?

Was defending Kris Kobach’s unconstitutional voter registration law worth the potential $4 million bill put on Kansas taxpayers?

If Sen. Jerry Moran gets a more conservative primary challenger in 2022, is losing his congressional seniority worth punishing him for voting to accept the Electoral College results?

The bigger problem here is not that a vocal minority mistrusts our elections. It’s that the politics industry feeds that mistrust intentionally and strategically, with no regard for its bigger consequences.

Patrick R. Miller is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at patrick.miller@ku.edu.

Patrick R. Miller