- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Wichita Eagle, June 26:

All not well on voting:

With the Aug. 5 primary approaching, the voting rights of more than 18,000 Kansans are snagged on the law requiring proof of citizenship to register as of 2013. Yet Secretary of State Kris Kobach acts as if all is well. As for the governor, attorney general and legislative leaders - cue the crickets.

Kobach even described the voters in limbo - 18.5 percent of the total attempted registrations since Jan. 1, 2013 - as “actually a pretty small percentage of the people who have registered since Jan. 1 (2013).”

Recall that Kobach persuaded the Legislature of the need to pass a law in 2011 requiring photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register though there had been just seven convictions for voter fraud between 1997 and 2009. And although he claimed as a candidate in 2010 that “in Kansas the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive,” he recently referred to 20 cases of illegal immigrants registering to vote between 2006 and 2009 in Kansas having been presented in federal court.

As Kobach downplays the number of suspended voter registrations thanks to his law, he minimizes the difficulty involved for some in complying with the paperwork mandate.

“You could just take your smartphone and then take a picture of your passport or your birth certificate and then just e-mail it into the county election office,” said Kobach, who also has characterized the suspended voters as people who “are taking their time” but “can do it at home from their couch this evening.”

Such advice is unhelpful for those who lack smartphones, computers, passports or easy access to birth certificates. The Eagle also has heard from already registered voters who’ve run into problems after moving within the state. The reality hasn’t matched Kobach’s assurances that the implementation and document sharing between state agencies would be seamless.

Jean Schodorf, the former Republican state senator running as a Democrat against Kobach, has a credibility problem on the issue because she unwisely voted for the voting changes, though she offered some reasonable remedies Tuesday for what to do about the law long term.

Unfortunately, it would violate that law to follow her recommendation to allow suspended voters to vote unless the state can prove they aren’t citizens. And there appears to be nothing to stop Kobach’s ridiculous two-tiered voting plan, under which those few voters who registered using the federal form will only be allowed to vote in federal races.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will weigh in eventually on the Kobach-filed lawsuit over the federal registration form.

But until the political will changes within the state, Kansas’ 18,000-plus suspended voters are on their own, and their right to vote is contingent on their ability to produce the papers proving they aren’t illegal immigrants.


The Iola Register, June 26

Cochran’s victory holds lessons for Roberts:

By most accounts, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi was not expected to win re-election in the June 24 run-off primary.

The elder statesman, long accustomed to coasting in his incumbency, waged a lackluster campaign that many viewed as complacent, or worse, weary, after 42 years in Washington, D.C.

When he came in second to State Sen. Chris McDaniel in the June 3 primary election, Cochran learned his message must change: Bringing home the bacon with government projects is now interpreted as government largesse, the antithesis of McDaniel’s Tea Party mantra of cut, cut, cut.

McDaniel’s call for austerity caused not a few to reassess what the outcomes may look like, especially because in Mississippi federal funds comprise a whopping 49 percent of its state general revenue.

(In Kansas, federal funds comprise 32.9 percent of our budget.)

Some constituents recalled McDaniel’s vote against a projected nursing school at the University of Southern Mississippi and wondered how that would translate on a wider scale, including public education in general, health care and transportation.

Others voiced concern of McDaniel’s partisan-style politics when he criticized Cochran’s willingness to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats.

To their credit, Tea Partiers move mountains. They motivate. They campaign. They vote.

That’s how Tea Party candidate David Brat, a virtual unknown, beat longtime incumbent Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Meanwhile, the rest of the electorate watches with a bemused que sera, sera resignation.

In the last days of the campaign, Cochran took a page out of McDaniel’s playbook and appealed to the sidelined, primarily African Americans as well as Democrats in the solidly Republican state.

Those two demographics helped propel Cochran to win the race by a comfortable 1.8 percent margin.

Most likely this is the last election Mississippi will allow all-comers to vote in its primary elections. More and more, Republicans are tightening the noose on voters. In Kansas, the deadline to register with a party was changed this year to June 1 in efforts to stymie last-minute changeovers between political parties. It used to be voters had until two weeks before a primary election to register with a particular party.

No doubt, campaigners for U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas kept close watch as the votes were tallied for Cochran. The similarities between the two abound, though Roberts has a decided advantage in that his field of opponents lacks any significant political experience.

Though as the season has proved, candidates dare not rest easy until the last vote has been cast.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, June 25

More millions headed toward NBAF:

Federal funding for construction of a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility adjacent to Kansas State University in Manhattan made yet another incremental advance June 24 as the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations passed a bill that includes $300 million for the project.

Although the bill has more hurdles to leap before it becomes law, the committee’s action is welcome news.

The $300 million, the amount requested in the president’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year, comes on the heels of $404 million appropriated for NBAF in the current year’s budget. The earlier appropriation appeared to solidify the research facility’s place in Manhattan - after years of delays and attempts to direct NBAF elsewhere - and the latest appropriation should remove any question that the project is on the right track.

The full Senate now must pass the committee’s bill. A House committee also has passed an appropriations bill that includes $300 million for construction, but it still has to pass the full House.

When it became known the federal government wanted to close down the existing, outdated research laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y., and build a new one elsewhere, the cost of the project was estimated at $750 million. That has changed substantially. Kansas to date has contributed more than $200 million to the cost of the facility and federal allocations totaling $704 million elevate the cost close to the $1 billion mark. Some estimates are the project will exceed that figure before construction is completed.

Regardless, members of Kansas’ congressional delegation should do all they can to ensure the latest appropriation gets through the legislative process unscathed and to the president’s desk.

There is a great need for the new facility, and it means a lot to the state and to the health and safety of this country.

The laboratory will research dangerous animal diseases that could metamorphose and pose a danger to humans and animal diseases that could severely damage livestock production in this country. When completed, NBAF is expected to employ about 325 permanent employees and have a $3.5 billion economic impact on Kansas in its first 20 years of operation.

It’s time to make it happen.


The Manhattan Mercury, June 29

Take a deep breath on Fort Riley:

If major cuts occur at Fort Riley, the impact to the Manhattan area would be staggering.

But it’s important to emphasize the first word in that sentence: If.

The Army is studying what cuts would mean to its installations. That’s part of the process of reducing troop levels and cutting spending as the wars of the past decade wind down. A report released this past Thursday indicated that a worst-case scenario of cutting 16,000 jobs at Fort Riley would mean employment in the region would drop by 27.9 percent, and the population would shrink by 30.5 percent. We’re talking about more than 40,000 people leaving the area. Income would drop 14.4 percent.

Breathtaking, to be sure.

But a few words of perspective - absent from some of the initial news reports by other media outlets about the study, by the way - are in order. The report doesn’t claim that such cuts are going to happen, or that they should happen. It simply tries to assess the impact in the event that they did happen.

In a sense, the report is the Army reminding us all of its importance, here and elsewhere.

Anybody paying attention around here already knows that. We’ve seen the effect of major cuts in the mid-1990s, which forced the Manhattan region to stagger along for a decade. We’ve seen the boom times of the past decade, when the size of Fort Riley was boosted following 9/11. Manhattan cruised through the recession better than almost anywhere else in the country as a result. All those “top places” lists on which Manhattan has appeared for the past several years? Well, growth at Fort Riley is a major reason why.

Were it to collapse, we’d be in a world of hurt. Clearly, the military is in cutback mode, and so we can’t pretend that this is entirely meaningless. They’re not doing impact studies of major additions at Army bases, you know. They’re talking cuts. Fort Riley seems more likely to shrink in the intermediate term than to grow.

But we’re confident local and state leaders are keenly aware of all this and will make the best case to protect Fort Riley. That is obviously a crucial job. It doesn’t happen by accident. All of us need to be mindful of that. Citizens ought to participate in the process to make sure the Army, Congress and anyone else knows how important Fort Riley is.

But before anybody panics, let’s realize that all we’re really talking so far is hypotheticals.

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