Voting rights groups have banded together for new legal challenges against GOP-backed voter suppression moves in Kansas. Recently, the state’s GOP legislature overruled vetoes from Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and enacted a slew of changes to the administering of elections in the state, including a ban on out-of-state organizations sending mail-in ballot applications to Kansas voters. Mail-in voting advocates have used such a strategy in the past as part of an effort to increase participation in the electoral process.
A new federal lawsuit against the ban on that involvement in the Kansas electoral process by out-of-state organizations was brought by the Campaign Legal Center on behalf of groups including VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center. Another lawsuit challenging the same provision of the new rules was recently filed in Shawnee County — which includes Topeka, the state capital — by groups including the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Kansas Appleseed, and Loud Light.
That Shawnee County case also targets a new penalty for returning certain numbers of other voters’ mail-in ballots and a new criminalization of giving “the appearance of being an election official,” no matter the intent of the mistakenly identified individual. Volunteers involved in voter outreach could be susceptible to criminal charges under that rule change. As Loud Light founder Davis Hammet observed, volunteers on the ground in Kansas have already been mistakenly identified as election officials in past circumstances.
Offering a broader denunciation of the new election rules under consideration, the Shawnee County case reads, in part, as follows:
‘In most instances, the Legislature relied on little more than vague references to concerns about elections integrity or fraud that was rumored to have occurred in other states. Yet, no legislator pointed to even a single instance of fraud precipitating the need for these drastic changes.’
Other states where court challenges to recent GOP-backed voter suppression moves have already emerged include Florida and Georgia. There’s never been any evidence of systematic election integrity problems with the way that elections were conducted last year, but this reality has not stopped Republican leaders from attempting to enact — and in some cases successfully putting into place — suppressive new voting restrictions that, in the real world, do little besides make it more difficult to cast a ballot.