Two Republican Voter Suppression Bills Thwarted By Governor

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Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, who won her office by a margin of 5 percent in the 2018 midterm elections, has now vetoed two new voting restriction bills produced and passed by Republicans in the state legislature. The bills, if enacted, would have changed requirements around mail-in voting and imposed new restrictions on the ability of the executive and judicial branches in the state government to impose changes in the electoral process. Kelly pointed out that the bills constitute “a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” since no systematic security problems have been discovered in the election system in Kansas or anywhere else in the country.

As the governor put it, discussing the legislation:

‘This… is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is designed to disenfranchise Kansans, making it difficult for them to participate in the democratic process, not to stop voter fraud.’

One of the bills “prohibits the executive and judicial branches of government from creating election laws” and “prevents the Secretary of State from entering into consent decrees with a court without legislative approval,” The Kansas City Star explains. Consent decrees are binding agreements that are agreed to instead of going forward with court proceedings in any given case. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, agreed to a high-profile consent decree after a lawsuit over the state’s process for handling mail-in ballots.

Meanwhile, the other Kansas bill “limits who is permitted to return a mail-in ballot for another person and makes it a misdemeanor for one person to return more than 10 mail-in ballots,” the Star adds, and these new restrictions could pointlessly threaten the ability of certain elderly or otherwise semi-confined voters to participate in elections. The legislation also imposes a new signature matching requirement for mail-in voters, demanding a match between signatures submitted with mail-in ballots and those on file for individual voters, and — as elsewhere — this requirement could baselessly disenfranchise those whose signatures may have changed.

In theory, the bills could still become law in the state despite Kelly’s vetos. Both measures already passed the state Senate with enough support to override the governor’s veto, but in the state House, both bills would require additional support for a veto override. The changes to mail-in voting guidelines would need four additional votes, while the new limits on the role of the executive and judiciary branches in the electoral process would need just one additional vote.

Kansas state Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Republican, explicitly tied the legislation to baseless concerns about election fraud during the 2020 cycle. As he put it:

‘I think our citizens are looking at these other states and really questioning the validity and the trustworthiness of what occurred. We need to do the best we can here in the state of Kansas to make sure that every time Republicans and Democrats can trust the results of our elections.’

Ordinarily, one might expect a public official to take on the task of bringing information to their constituents to ease concerns when possible. Instead of fulfilling this basic task, Republican leaders like Carpenter — and, to use a more prominent example from a neighboring state, Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) — have decided to trumpet these concerns about the election as some sort of gospel truth without meaningfully acknowledging the fact that Republican leaders themselves helped cultivate these false beliefs about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election in the first place.