Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office’s Spanish-language voter guides list incorrect information on registering to vote
Chris Reeves of political blog Daily Kos had a big catch Thursday afternoon: He observed how Spanish-language voter manuals published by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office included wrong information about how to register to vote and what identification was appropriate.
A spokesman for Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office has since acknowledged the error to The Pitch but has yet to answer how long the incorrect information has been in front of the state’s Spanish-speaking population.
And it’s not minor information that Kobach’s voter guides got wrong, either. Spanish-language voter guides told readers they had to register 15 days before an election, while English guides correctly informed voters that they had to register 21 days before the election date.
Even worse, the English version of the Kansas Secretary of State’s voter guidelines lists the required types of identification that’s needed to establish citizenship in order to register to vote: birth certificate, naturalization papers, a passport and military records. The Spanish version of the document omitted passports as one of the documents that can establish citizenship for first-time Kansas voters. Passports are one of the easier ways to establish citizenship under new Kansas voter identification laws; many, regardless of whether they speak English, Spanish or otherwise, don’t have easy access to original birth certificates.
Moreover, if you’re talking about a Secretary of State like Kris Kobach, who puts a premium on proving citizenship in order to register to vote, omitting passports as appropriate identification on a voter guide stinks.
“These errors were pointed out to me yesterday evening and I am working to get it fixed immediately,” Kobach spokesman Craig McCullah tells The Pitch via e-mail. He adds that Kobach’s office is trying to figure out how long the errors have been circulated, although by Friday afternoon, no answer was forthcoming.
These mistakes would be a black eye for any Secretary of State’s office. Election materials aren’t provided in other languages as a mere courtesy, but rather as a requirement by federal law.
The errors are more pronounced in the context of Kobach’s policies. Since being first elected to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office four years ago, Kobach has advocated a series of stringent voter-identification laws, including proof of citizenship, that former University of Missouri-Kansas City law-school professor argues are a means of protecting electoral integrity. Critics see his measures as a means to disenfranchise voters, particularly those that might lean Democratic.
The errors on the voting guides will amplify those criticisms.