Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez announced Tuesday that she would not prosecute violations of a newly effective law in the state of Kansas that makes it a felony for individuals to engage in conduct that would make a person think they are an elections worker.
The law, Valdez said in a statement, has already had a “chilling effect” on informing and registering voters in the Sunflower State.
“This is not a partisan issue,” she said. “This law criminalizes essential efforts by trusted nonpartisan groups like the League of Women Voters to engage Kansans on participation in accessible, accountable and fair elections. It is too vague and too broad and threatens to create felons out of dedicated defenders of democracy.”
A felony charge, Valdez said, can affect a person’s livelihood by negatively impacting employment and housing opportunities — and ironically the loss of voting rights. The crux of the law relies on subjectivity to evaluate whether someone’s “appearance” and “conduct” indicates they could be an elections worker, and does not require a common standard in law of whether a “reasonable person” could make such a determination, she said.
“Normal, everyday, traditional political activities have been declared unlawful and can potentially carry a prison sentence,” Valdez said.
She added that the law may appear to be an effort to prevent a person from impersonating an elections official, but doing so is already illegal. The true impact of prosecuting the law, then, would be a less representative electorate due to weakened voter engagement efforts, Valdez said.
Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.