Kris Kobach, a Kansas Republican, is the only secretary of state in the country with the authority to prosecute voter fraud. File
Kris Kobach, a Kansas Republican, is the only secretary of state in the country with the authority to prosecute voter fraud. File

Government & Politics

Secretary of State Kris Kobach announces first conviction of noncitizen voting in Kansas

By Hunter Woodall

hwoodall@kcstar.com

April 12, 2017 04:47 PM

UPDATED April 12, 2017 08:55 PM

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Wednesday that he has obtained his first conviction of a person who illegally voted in a Kansas election without being a U.S. citizen.

Kobach, who has advised President Donald Trump on immigration and voter fraud, said that Victor David Garcia Bebek has pleaded guilty to voter fraud.

Kobach, a Republican, is the only secretary of state in the country with the authority to prosecute voter fraud.

“No matter how many cases we prosecute the political left will always whine that there’s not enough cases to justify protecting our elections in this way,” Kobach said in a phone interview. “That’s absurd.”

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The conviction of Bebek was the eighth for Kobach since he gained the authority to prosecute voter fraud in 2015, his office said.

As of this March, 1,788,673 people were registered to vote in Kansas.

Kobach said the others were convictions of people who “double-voted” or were citizens who voted in Kansas and another state.

“This conviction shows how important prosecutorial authority is,” Kobach said.

Last year, Kobach was revealed as a source of Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of people illegally voted in the 2016 presidential election. Kobach has offered no evidence to back up Trump’s claim of such fraud in the 2016 election.

Bebek will be on unsupervised probation for up to three years and pay a fine of $5,000, according to a statement from Kobach’s office.

Kobach found that Bebek illegally voted three times: in a 2012 special election and the 2012 and 2014 general elections. He was a Peruvian national at the time who voted in Sedgwick County, according to Kobach.

Kobach said the way the case was discovered because Bebek became a U.S. citizen earlier this year.

At his naturalization ceremony, he was offered the chance to register to vote in Sedgwick County.

“This gentleman did so, and then when the Sedgwick County election office went back to the office to enter his information, they found that he had been on the voter rolls since 2011,” Kobach said.

Kobach said he did not know whether Bebek had been affiliated with any political party.

Kansas has voter identification laws strongly supported by Kobach that have often been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and Democratic lawmakers in the state.

Rep. John Carmichael, a Democrat from Wichita, filed legislation this year to strip the secretary of the power to prosecute voter fraud and election crimes, but the bill has not moved forward in the Kansas Legislature.

“I’m not at all convinced that finding one non-citizen to prosecute after a two-year search justifies giving the secretary of state what is unprecedented authority held by no other secretary of state in the nation,” Carmichael said.

A report from the the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights earlier this year found the Kansas law to be the strictest in the nation, and also cited concerns that the voting law championed by Kobach “may have been written and implemented with improper, discriminatory intent.”

Kobach has continued to defend the state’s voting laws, which requires photo identification and forces new Kansas voters to prove they are U.S. citizens if they register using the state’s voting form.

Kobach cheers Trump's early days in office

"President Trump has done more in one week to improve the security of the United States of America than Barack Obama did in eight years,” Kobach said.

Hunter Woodall The Kansas City Star

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw