The Kansas City Star, Sept. 8

One ad paid for by the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Rep. Roger Marshall superimposed the photo of his Democratic opponent, Kansas state Sen. Barbara Bollier, over a sky that’s black with smoke. “SILENT,” it says in giant letters. “Liberals like Barbara Bollier are silent as streets are ransacked and cities looted. Instead of backing our trusted police in Kansas, Bollier backs the Biden/Schumer agenda.”

No Kansas streets have been ransacked.

No Kansas cities have been looted.

And the only Kansas police we’re aware of having been criticized in any serious way are in Kansas City, Kansas, where the Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched a 2019 criminal investigation into sexual assault and other allegations against retired detective Roger Golubski.

Bollier has not been SILENT, or even silent; on the contrary, she has spoken out against violence at protests elsewhere in the country.

Trying to paint the retired anesthesiologist, who until last year was a Republican, as the face of antifa in upscale Mission Hills is even more of a stretch than the unsuccessful but identical attack on Gov. Laura Kelly as the “far-left opponent” of Kris Kobach in 2018.

That’s the plan though, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week launched a similar ad: “Say no to the mob, say no to Barbara Bollier,” the committee tweeted.

In an interview last Friday, Marshall tried his best to sell the risible idea that the top concern of suburban Kansas women is the threat posed by the “terrorist groups” who support police reform in their state.

“When I’m knocking doors, the No. 1 concern I’m hearing, especially from suburban women, is fear for their family,” Marshall said.

“You know, in Hutchinson, Kansas, a month or two ago, I got phone calls from concerned citizens that one of these terrorist groups were organized — were going to be in downtown Hutchinson breaking up windows and tearing up Main Street, and I think indeed there probably was some truth to that,” Marshall said. There was? There was no destruction at all, as it turned out.

"They must have got scared,” Marshall said of the peaceful protesters. In fact, it’s the rest of us he’s trying to scare.

Hutchinson Police Chief Jeff Hooper said, “All of our protests that we have had here — and there’s been a few — all of them have been peaceful.”

But hey, things could still go terribly wrong, right?

Asked for examples of Kansas police Bollier should have defended and did not, Eric Pahls, Marshall’s campaign manager, pointed us to a news story about the mayor of Lawrence supporting a reform agenda that includes “decriminalizing behaviors related to homelessness and drug addiction and establishing mental health and crisis response teams.”

“To do this,” the story Pahls cited said, the mayor “wants a percentage of city funds that go to law enforcement to be reallocated to partners or employees in areas that address those issues.”

So, has Marshall spoken out about this threat to police in Lawrence? Not specifically, no, but he “has been speaking out against defunding police for months.”

“We’ve seen all over the country our police come under attack either financially or violently,” Pahls said. “She hasn’t been bothered to say a word about it.” That isn’t so.

In a recent Facebook post, Bollier said, “As I stated back in June, I always condemn violence and the destruction of property of any kind. … I do not support efforts to defund the police. I have always supported law enforcement and worked to keep our communities safe. I pledge to continue that support when I’m in the U.S. Senate. I also pledge to listen to our communities of color who are crying out for help and support. … I can do both — support our police and support the need to always push toward a nation that lives up to its ideals to treat everyone equally.”

Pahls also cited some community activists who favor defunding police who planned to speak at a Wichita City Council meeting last month and a Salina Journal profile of a Topeka activist for police reform who does not actually support defunding at all.

Marshall’s whole campaign is based on trying to turn Barbara Bollier, who is barely a Democrat at all, into the Angela Davis of Johnson County. Which is not just cynical, but absurd.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Sept. 6

At first glance, it would seem that President Trump is an expert on matters of fraud, if for no other reason than he listens to the table chatter at the company cafeteria. (Harsh? Yes, but the scorecard of Trump campaign officials convicted of or indicted on fraud is significant.)

But, being an expert on fraud and an expert on fraud prevention aren’t exactly the same thing. With that in mind, perhaps the president isn’t the best source for advice on preventing election fraud.

His most recent musing that people ought to try to vote twice as a way to test the system is reckless. But perhaps some good can come of it, if Americans use it as an opportunity to more deeply examine our election system. If done honestly, most will find the system isn’t perfect but is better than the alternative. It certainly deserves our confidence when it is allowed to operate without manipulation and when it is protected from foreign influences and other threats from our country’s enemies.

So, let’s examine this issue of using a mail ballot to vote twice in an election. The first thing to know is there are protections in place, they’ve been used for a long time, and they have proved adequate. The key is that mail or advance ballots aren’t simply thrown in a pile with Election Day ballots where the two become indiscernible. Rather, mail ballots are kept in a separate pile. They are kept sealed and attached with names. They aren’t counted until election officials can check that the names attached to the mail ballots don’t also show up on the list of people who voted in person on Election Day. If the names show up on both lists, there is a vote that won’t count. If it is determined you voted twice on purpose, a law enforcement official may visit with you. If you follow the president’s advice on voting twice to test the system, you have rocks in your head.

But what happens if election officials don’t check their lists, you ask? Well, of course, that is a problem. But that is a problem of incompetent election officials, not a problem with mail-in ballots. Opponents of mail ballots are conveniently glossing over that point. If you think bad election officials are the issue, fix that problem. Don’t ban voting by mail. That’s no solution. Reckless election officials will create plenty of problems with in-person voting too. If you are concerned about election fraud, the most important thing you can do is to vote for competent election officials.

To be fair to people concerned with mail ballots, there are nine states and the District of Columbia that automatically mail ballots to all registered voters whether requested or not. Kansas’ system does seem better than that. Voters here can get a ballot mailed to them for any reason, but they do have to request it. It does add another level of security to the process. It is reasonable to have a debate about whether it would be better to have that added level of security. But it is unreasonable to suggest that these nine states and D.C. have created a system that will invalidate election results. There is no evidence of that. You can come up with hunches and suppositions about fraud, but you can come up with hunches and suppositions about fraud with in-person ballots too.

The bar must be higher than that before we start sowing doubt about something so sacred as our elections. What should concern us are security problems that are systemic in nature. While some people might be able to find a way to misuse a mail ballot or two, it is much more difficult to find a way to misuse millions of them at a time. A true systemic threat to our elections is a computer hack of vote counting software that changes millions of votes at a time. Mind you, we have systems in place to prevent that too, but that threat should keep you awake far more than mail ballots.

Another systemic threat that should be more worrisome: Russian interference. We’ve now had a Republican-appointed special counsel and a Republican-controlled Senate panel both come to the conclusion that Russian actors are trying to manipulate U.S. election results.

It is hard to understand why people concerned about mail ballots aren’t expressing more concerns about those Republican findings of Russian interference.

Well, maybe it isn’t that hard to understand. They spend too much time listening to a certain cafeteria table.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, Sept. 4

We applaud the state for finally taking a brave step forward for public safety.

The names and locations of COVID-19 clusters will begin to be publicly released. While counties previously had the ability to release that information, not all did so. Sometimes information was only released if contact tracers couldn’t get hold of everyone who spent time at a certain location.

That’s all over now. According to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl, “Under the new policy starting Sept. 9, specifics will be provided if there are five or more active cases associated with a given location. The names of private businesses won’t be disclosed unless there are 20 or more.”

The move is partly about schools and colleges going back into session. Parents will surely appreciate the information as they make decisions about how their children learn this fall.

But the move is about more than that. It’s about showing that as cases and deaths mount, we all must act responsibly. If a particular location sees widespread transmission of the virus, something has gone awry — folks aren’t wearing masks, they aren’t separated, or there are simply too many people together for too long a time. We all deserve to know this information as we navigate the minefield of pandemic life.

“With the numbers all going in the wrong direction ... we have to start getting more serious,” KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said, according to Bahl. “One of the ways to do this is to provide people the information they need.”

Other countries have gone much further. Some use cell phone data to track and identify those who have been near clusters. Contact tracers then call them and urge testing or quarantine. Still other countries have opened facilities where people possibly exposed to the virus can stay for the necessary 14-day period.

In comparison to these tough methods, what Gov. Laura Kelly and Norman unveiled this week was mild. But there will no doubt be those who cast the decision as somehow anti-business or fear mongering.

But COVID-19 is real, and the pandemic continues whether we like it or not. If institutions or locations are allowing easy spread, we need to know. If individuals haven’t acted responsibly and exposed others at a specific time, we need to know.

The virus can be beaten. It can be squelched. But only through knowledge and cooperation.