OP-ED: I’m a conservative. Here’s why I’m not voting for Kobach

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Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Shelly Yang | Tribune News Service)

This opinion-editorial was written by Suan Sonna, freshman in political science and philosophy. If you would like to write an op-ed with the Collegian, send us an email at opinion@kstatecollegian.com to get started.

I’m here to admit that I’m a conservative who will not be voting for Kobach.

I applaud Noah Ochsner for expressing his concerns, and I think Benjamin Ristow’s rebuttal merits serious consideration. I wish to analyze some of his points and offer my own opinions on the matter.

I first encountered Kris Kobach at a Republican gathering in Olathe.

A large portion of the crowd, if I recall properly, was in favor of Colyer and did not always meet Kobach’s rhetorical climaxes with the applause he wanted. He began to say something along the lines of, “This is what Republicans believe! Why aren’t you clapping? This is what Republicans believe!” There were also other claims that made me shake my head back and forth, wondering how Kobach formulated his views. His temperament and conduct has always worried me, especially in a time when our nation is deeply wounded and divided.

But, I am sure Kobach supporters like Benjamin will object that personality judgements are somewhat irrelevant, and what matters more are Kobach’s politics. That’s where I think other problems lie.

I still think about the shadow of Fish v. Kobach which began with a preliminary ruling from a federal judge that the voting requirements Kobach supported were a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right”. The dispute ultimately ended with, “The court struck down Kansas’ documentary proof-of-citizenship law, which disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters. The judge found that the law violates the National Voter Registration Act and the U.S. Constitution.” The ACLU also reports that Kobach was sanctioned by a federal court for “misleading representation…”

Second, I take strong contention with the claim that in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants is unfair. I can understand where Benjamin and Kobach are coming from when they want the state to serve law-abiding Kansans first and not benefit those who do not seemingly deserve subsidization.

However, we need to think more deeply about fairness.

In-state tuition mainly benefits Dreamers who came to America as children without full control over their position. They grew up in our communities as perhaps our neighbors and colleagues. Many of them were my schoolmates and are my closest friends.

After I heard Kobach’s position, I thought about how he views undocumented students as “stealing” from other Kansans, when, in reality, they embody American ideals and do not want to harm other people. They are working on becoming citizens through the proper channels, while also balancing their academic and personal lives. One could say they arrived here via unfair circumstances beyond their control and became part of the American way of life in such a way that it would be unfair to treat them as outsiders or suddenly oust them.

Furthermore, Kobach’s legal case is flawed. His claim is that the current Kansas law that permits in-state tuition for the undocumented violates a 1996 federal statute. The statute essentially says that “states may not give any post-secondary education benefit to a person who is not present in the country unless it provides that same benefit on equal terms to U.S. citizens.” Notice that the educational benefits are contingent on whether or not these same standards are being applied to US citizens as well. This means that undocumented persons have to play by the same rules as everyone else, which the current law satisfies, and it additionally requires that the undocumented must be in the process of acquiring citizenship. The current Kansas statute seems to be the golden middle ground between two unfair extremes.

Nonetheless, I think everyone has been unfair to Kobach on his “Taj Mahal” and “Crystal Palaces” remarks. He’s right in that there is a real concern over bureaucracies funnelling funds to themselves and their extravagences instead of students — but not all schools districts are equal!

I went to USD 500 and to a high school with numerous infrastructure problems. Though my high school nonetheless produces exceptional graduates, and Kobach prides himself on going to Harvard without a super-computer, we still need more funding to provide the same opportunities to my high school that other institutions enjoy. Indeed, when I visited Blue Valley and Olathe Northwest, it felt like the “Taj Mahal”.

Some schools underperform not because they inherently cannot produce good students, but because they lack the proper resources to unleash all of their potential. My high school prides itself on its International Baccalaureate program, which is an intensive curriculum that rewards successful students with a special diploma and college credit.

However, there is a disparity between students at the top and in the margins, which may drastically affect the accuracy of the numbers that will be submitted to Kobach’s criterion.

If students had access to more IB classes and other specialties (which cost substantial money), this would allow students more choices and a holistic education. Judging the standardized test scores of schools on current funding trends without crucial structural changes seems to already skew the odds against schools like mine that are underfunded yet full of promise. Schools have different conditions and potentials, which requires more sophistication than one uniform mechanism.

I am sympathetic to school choice but also recognize the importance of public schools. We need to fulfill our duty to students in public schools before we can even talk about vouchers and more competition.

Though there are more arguments and facts to explore, these are the reasons why I will not be voting for Kris Kobach this November: his temperament, Fish v. Kobach, his limited scope on immigration issues, and his limited view on education funding. I appreciate hearing from both sides and hope to engage in fruitful discussion.

Suan Sonna is a freshman in political science and philosophy. The views and opinions expressed in this opinion-editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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