Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he has secured his first conviction of a non-citizen for voting illegally.
In a news release, Kobach says that Victor David Garcia Bebek, a native of Peru, pleaded guilty last week in Sedgwick County District Court to three misdemeanor charges of voting illegally.
Kobach says Bebek, before obtaining U.S. citizenship, cast votes in a 2012 special election, the 2012 general election and the 2014 general election. Desiree Taliaferro, a spokeswoman for Kobach, says Bebek was naturalized in February.
Kobach is the only secretary of state in the country authorized to prosecute voter fraud. He has claimed, with little evidence, that illegal voting by non-citizens is widespread and has pushed for laws requiring Kansans to provide documentary proof of their citizenship. Those laws are tied up in litigation.
Meantime, Kobach has pushed for a two-tiered voting system that would bar Kansans from voting in state and local races if they have not provided proof of citizenship such as a passport or birth certificate. In February, the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee held a hearing on a bill that would put that policy into statute.
At that legislative hearing, Kobach testified that his office had the names of 115 non-citizens who had illegally registered or sought to register to vote in Kansas. He said, however, that he would be unable to prosecute most of them because they attempted to register more than 10 years ago – outside the statute-of-limitations period.
Both Kobach and President Donald Trump have claimed that millions of non-citizens illegally voted in the 2016 presidential election, pointing to a statistical analysis by a political science professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, which has been criticized as flawed.
Kobach, a former constitutional law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, made voter fraud a centerpiece of his campaign for secretary of state when he first ran for the office and was elected in 2010.
In the news release on Bebek’s guilty plea, Kobach said, “The problem of non-citizens voting is a serious one, both in Kansas and nationally. Every time a non-citizen votes, it cancels out the vote of a United States citizen.”
The release said that under the plea agreement, Bebek will be placed on unsupervised probation for up to three years and pay a $5,000 fine.
Kobach has secured seven convictions of citizens who Kobach accused of voting in more than one state.
Dan Margolies is a reporter and editor for KCUR, a partner in the Kansas News Service. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.