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Kansas secretary of state prosecutes non-citizen for voting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced Wednesday his first prosecution of a non-citizen voting illegally since lawmakers in 2015 gave him the authority to prosecute voter fraud.

Victor David Garcia Bebek pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of voting unlawfully in 2012 and 2014, according to a news release from Kobach’s office. The plea deal calls for a $5,000 fine and unsupervised probation for up to three years.

Bebek’s defense attorney did not immediately return a phone message left at his office seeking comment, and Bebek did not have a listed phone number. Bebek’s nationality was not released.

The original criminal complaint that The Associated Press obtained from Kobach’s office lists three felony counts against him for making a false statement on an affidavit and three misdemeanor counts for unlawfully voting, but Kobach’s spokeswoman did not release the plea agreement that led to the deal on the lesser charges.

The initial charges were filed under seal in February and the prosecution was not made public until Wednesday when Kobach’s office sent out its announcement.

The court clerk’s office in Sedgwick County refused Wednesday to release any information on the case.

Bebek voted illegally in a 2012 special election, the 2012 general election and the 2014 general election, according to Kobach’s office.

“The problem of non-citizens voting is a serious one, both in Kansas and nationally,” Kobach said in the news release. “Every time a non-citizen votes, it cancels out the vote of a United States citizen.”

Kobach, a conservative Republican, has advised President Donald Trump on immigration and is the architect of tough Kansas voter identification laws, including a 2013 requirement for new voters to provide papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering.

That proof-of-citizenship requirement has been attacked in multiple federal and state court lawsuits.

Kobach has long argued that voting by immigrants in the U.S. illegally and other non-citizens is a serious threat. Critics contend such fraud is rare and argue the requirement suppresses turnout because eligible citizens may not be able to immediately provide documentation such as a passport, birth certificate or naturalization papers.

Between 2003 and 2013, the state documented 30 cases in which non-citizens registered to vote, federal court filings show. The requirement blocked 14 non-citizens from registering in Sedgwick County, which a federal judge noted at the time involved people who mistakenly registered to vote.

The evidence in those cases showed only three instances in Kansas where non-citizens voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013, and Kobach has been trying to find other such instances of immigrants unlawfully voting to defend the state’s proof-of-citizenship law against multiple legal challenges.

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