Kansas’ punishment for voter fraud ‘a slap on the wrist’

TWICE AS NICE: More than 125,000 Kansans were identified as potentially having voter registrations in multiple states. But even when real fraud is uncovered, prosecution is far from easy.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — For more than a decade now, Sherman County Clerk Janet Rumpel has been hopping mad.

Like all in her position, Rumpel takes the duty of administering fair and accurate elections seriously. So when a local man bragged to poll workers about skirting election law and voting in multiple states, she practically demanded retribution.

But that was way back in 2000, during an election year plagued nationally with the specter of hanging chads and nail-biting recounts.

Sure, law enforcement were alerted. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was even brought in. But despite the man’s brazenness, Rumpel said nothing was ever done.

“Every time I see him I think ‘how could you do that?’” Rumpel told Kansas Watchdog. “To me, it’s a privilege and an honor to be able to vote, and it should have integrity behind it.”

Since then, Kansas has helped lead the way in the fight against voter fraud. One of the state’s most comprehensive tools, the Interstate Voter Cross Check, was initiated in 2005 and expanded in 2011 under Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The program compares voter rolls between states, and spotlights multiple registrations for further investigation or correction. At last count, a staggering 125,031 Kansans were flagged for having potential duplicate registrations in one or more states.

While double registrations aren’t a sign of implicit fraud, it’s at the very least an open invitation. But even with the cross check program comparing voter rolls and looking for fraud in 28 states, prosecuting those who abuse the system is far from easy.

Brad Bryant, deputy of elections and legislative matters

Brad Bryant, deputy of elections and legislative matters for the Kansas secretary of state, confirmed Rumpel’s grievances, noting “nothing was actually ever done by the county or the feds.”

“When we have referred cases like this to county prosecutors in Kansas, we find that they’re busy with what may be considered more serious crimes,” Bryant told Kansas Watchdog. “They may have burglaries and murders that are considered more serious and higher priority, and they face limited resources.”

In Kansas, double voting is only a misdemeanor. While the crime is punishable by a $250 fine and up to a year in county jail, Bryant said offenders rarely see time behind bars.

“At least half the time, if a sheriff’s deputy goes and knocks on someone’s door and says we have evidence that you double voted, they admit it,” Bryant said. “And if they get a misdemeanor, it kind of ends up like a slap on the wrist. Usually they know it’s against the rules, they just didn’t know they’d get caught.”

Bryant and other like-minded people are pushing for the legislature to up the crime to a level nine non-person felony. Key in that, he said, is that a conviction would strip an individual of their voting rights.

“I think the state of Kansas has very good guidelines, now they have to have voter ID, they’re supposed to provide proof of citizenship, so I think we’re on the right track,” Rumpel said. “But what concerns me is small counties like ours … if it’s happening here, how much more of this is happening in the big cities and counties?”

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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