Voting rights case sent to Kansas Supreme Court, challenging 2021 election law

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Court will hear arguments about limits on advance ballot collection, signature verification

TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court will review portions of a voting rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of mandates created in 2021 in response to election fraud conspiracy theories.

To settle some of the debate around state elections, justices will hear arguments about whether Kansans’ right to vote is undermined by state law restricting the number of advance ballots a person can deliver to an election office. The arguments will also challenge state law requiring election volunteers to verify signatures on advance ballots.

On Tuesday, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking the Kansas Supreme Court for an injunction on these provisions while the appeals process is ongoing.

 “The provision is obviously incredibly concerning,” said Davis Hammet with Loud Light, one of the groups involved in the case. “It should be concerning to every Kansan, the idea that you do everything right, and then the state just alleges that someone didn’t think your signature match so your vote isn’t counted.”

Among other restrictions laid out in House Bill 2332 and House Bill 2183: Election officials must evaluate advance ballots by matching signatures on file with the county with signatures on ballot envelopes, and one person cannot deliver more than 10 advance voting ballots on behalf of other voters. The law also created new penalties for touching somebody else’s ballot, distributing ballots or altering the postmark on an advanced ballot. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed both bills, but was overridden.

The Kansas Court of Appeals issued a March opinion that the case should go back to District Court, reversing the decision of a Shawnee County judge, who dismissed the voting-access lawsuit. The court opinion indicated the plaintiffs had ground to sue. 

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2021 against Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Attorney General Kris Kobach by the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Loud Light, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center.

The Kansas Legislature had passed several election laws meant to stop fraudulent ballots from being cast in response to conservative theories about the 2020 loss of former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.

No evidence has been given to support election fraud, and Schwab has repeatedly affirmed the security of Kansas elections. 

“The state legislature can’t willy-nilly just make an absurd claim of fraud, pass a law that will disenfranchise a bunch of folks and have that be OK,” Hammet said. “The state really needs to carefully craft solutions to address a real problem. They can’t just make it harder to vote based on conspiracy.” 

On a national level, a series of claims of voter fraud were all debunked by government officials and the Trump campaign’s own legal team.” 

“For two years, the League of Women Voters of Kansas has halted our core work of voter assistance because our state law targets voter assistance organizations with criminal penalties,” said Martha Pint, League of Women Voters of Kansas president. “LWV and our partners have known all along that this law hurts Kansans, and we are eager for the Supreme Court to hear our arguments.”

A spokesperson from the secretary of state’s office didn’t immediately respond to Reflector inquiries for comment.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus 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: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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