Kansas House overrides governor’s veto of two election bills

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TOPEKA — The Kansas House generated enough Republican support Monday to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a pair of election bills touted by advocates as essential to fair elections and as voter suppression by critics.

After securing two-thirds majorities in the House chamber for House Bill 2332 and House Bill 2183, both were forwarded to the Senate to determine whether 27 votes existed across the Capitol rotunda to complete these reversals of the governor. The House affirmed the bills by narrow margins of one and two votes.

Collectively, the bills would compel organizations sending voters applications for an advance ballot to disclose more information about sponsors of the mailing and to declare the application wasn’t sent by a local, state or federal government agency. Candidates would no longer be able to assist advance voters with their ballots and non-candidates would be limited to helping no more than 10 advance voters through the process.

“It’s reducing the amount of confusion that our constituents are going to have in future elections,” said Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Derby Republican.

He said some Kansas residents were flooded with advance voting application forms sent by third-party organizations. A portion of those individuals responded by unnecessarily submitting multiple applications to election offices, he said.

The legislation also would prohibit the judicial and executive branches from altering election law, including deadlines for submitting ballots, without consent of the Legislature. The package compels county officials to confirm the registration address of prospective voters to reduce the risk of illegal registrants from voting in the manner former U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins did in Topeka election after claiming his residential address was a UPS store.

In addition, the election reform bills would prohibit organizations from providing grants to county elections offices to conduct elections.

Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka, said no element of House Bill 2183 was debated on the floor of the Kansas House before it was moved through the Legislature and sent to the governor. The House elections committee didn’t have a role in shaping the bill either, he said.

“I am tired of hearing about the committee process, respecting our House, when something as blatant as what we have in front of us here is put before us — never having been debated, discussed or voted upon either in committee or on this floor,” Miller said.

On a conference call before the Legislature convened Monday, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, state Sen. Ethan Corson and Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund, offered criticisms of both bills vetoed by Kelly. The trio urged the U.S. Senate to complete work on a U.S. House-passed bill that would remove dark money from the nation’s political process and minimize the threat of gerrymandering congressional districts.

“It is clear that we cannot trust Republicans in the Kansas Legislature to protect Kansans’ right to vote,” said Corson, a Johnson County Democrat who described the vetoed bills as attempts by the GOP to “criminalize neighbors helping neighbors” and intensify a campaign to suppress voting.

Davids, the 3rd District congresswoman and a Democrat, said the Legislature should drop the GOP-dictated legislation and “work in a bipartisan way to protect all Kansans’ freedom to vote because this is the foundation of our society.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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