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Don't book 'em, Marko

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Would you rather have Mark Martin obeying the law, or Mark Martin enforcing the law? For us, the choice is easy. A secretary of state who dutifully allows people to vote, perhaps even assists them in being good Americans, is better than a hybrid secretary of state/sheriff who goes looking for people to keep from voting. (Especially if the sheriff/secretary carries a gun, and Martin well might. Good judgment is not one of his prominent qualities.)

A committee was appointed by Martin sometime back to study the operations of the secretary of state's office. Chaired by a Tea Party-type Republican, Curtis Coleman, the committee has now made recommendations, some highly predictable, such as a proposal that the state pay private companies to clean and maintain the Capitol and grounds, rather than the secretary of state paying his own employees to do the work, as is now the case. To the Tea Party, a large purpose of government is to put taxpayer money into the pockets of private contractors.

Helping the people rule is not nearly so valued by Tea Partiers, and often deplored. Republicans claim to fear election fraud, though it almost never happens, at least not the kind the Republicans worry about. (Republican Supreme Court justices do make off with presidential elections from time to time.) The Coleman Committee has suggested expanding the secretary of state's powers to investigate alleged election fraud, including a "rapid response" team led by a lawyer. Special weapons and tactics? Once such a group is created, it will see the need. It might ask for drones.

The Coleman Committee and Republicans generally want to make it harder for people to vote by imposing new identification requirements. Such requirements would discourage some potential voters — the poor, minorities, the elderly — and these happen to be people likely to vote Democratic.

Republicans believe that voters aren't burdened with enough red tape, and that gun buyers and corporations are burdened with too much. They want to reverse the proportions. Armed only with his guns, Jared Loughner was something of a nuisance, they admit. But, they say, think what damage he might have done in a voting booth.

Martin, a Kansan by birth, may be influenced by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who has gained national attention for his efforts to win "prosecutorial authority" for his office. Kobach is an accomplished suppressor of dissent. In 2007, when he was chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, he set up a "loyalty committee" to pursue those suspected of lacking it. If any Republican official was found to have supported a Democrat, he or she was stripped of the right to vote in Party leadership elections. Republicans are way too fond of stripping people of the right to vote. They shouldn't be given more authority to do it.

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