Kansas’s voter fraud show trials

A Wichita man pled guilty yesterday to three misdemeanors — two counts of voting without being qualified and one count of knowingly marking or transmitting more than one ballot.

The man, 77 year-old Ron Weems, will pay a fine of $5,500 but will avoid any jail time or probation.

The case is the result of Weems having been registered to vote in both Colorado and Kansas, and having voted in both states in 2012 and 2014. He registered in Kansas in 1980 and in Colorado in 2003. Weems’ lawyer told the Wichita Eagle following the guilty plea that the double voting had been inadvertent, and that his client had, in part due to his age, opted to enter a plea deal rather than struggle through what would have been a lengthy criminal proceeding. As part of the plea deal, Kansas dropped two counts of election perjury, which is a felony.

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

Weems is the fourth person convicted under Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s ongoing crusade against voter fraud since the state’s legislature granted him unprecedented authority to prosecute voting crimes. However, the details of the case suggest that Kobach’s efforts are more for show than they are for preserving the integrity of Kansas’s elections.

For starters, the solutions Kobach has championed as a preventative measure against voter fraud — proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration and strict voter ID laws — would not have prevented Weems from voting in multiple states in the same election. He is a citizen, and he wasn’t impersonating someone else. What would have prevented Weems from registering and voting in multiple states would have been for Kansas to participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a program which allows states to match voter registration databases against each other and remove duplicates. There are currently 15 states, along with the District of Columbia, enrolled in ERIC — including Colorado — but Kansas is not one of them.

Had Kansas been enrolled in ERIC, Weems would have been removed from their voter rolls when they matched their voter file with Colorado’s, and would not have been able to vote in Kansas.

What’s more, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that there is a systematic and large-scale effort on the part of anyone to encourage double-voting in a way that would actually affect the outcome of an election. Ron Weems isn’t a serious threat to accurate democratic outcomes in Kansas, Kobach’s homages to election integrity aside. And again, even if such a comprehensive effort did in fact exist, it would be easy to stamp out. Just enroll in ERIC. The more states that sign on to the program, the more effective it is.

In a statement following Weems’s guilty plea, Kobach said that the conviction served as evidence of his commitment “to ensuring that Kansas has the most secure elections in the country.” In light of this conviction, the single most effective way to prevent similar crimes — be they inadvertent or intentional — would be for Kansas to begin participating in ERIC. Making it harder to register to vote in Kansas, or to cast a ballot itself, hasn’t and won’t solve the problem Weems’s case presented.

If Kobach is serious about ensuring the integrity of Kansas’s elections, he’ll reach out to the folks at ERIC as soon as he can.

But that’s a big if.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • armedliberal

    Suppressing minority and working class vote is what it is all about.

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