TOPEKA (KSNT) – National Voter Registration Month kicked off Wednesday, as people get ready for local elections around the country. But, the national push comes as some voting rights groups in Kansas are putting the brakes on efforts to increase voter registration.
Some voting rights advocates like Davis Hammet, President of Loud Light, said their outreach efforts are at a stand still, as they wait for a ruling on a new law that he said prevents them from participating in voter registration activities.
Hammet told the Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday that it would be “impossible” for the suspension to not have an impact on voter turnout.
“We would normally have been contacting tens of thousands, if not, hundreds of thousands of voters,” he said.
The pause is due to a law that went in effect in July, which makes it illegal “give the appearance” of being an elected official. Voting rights advocates said that’s even if you’re mistaken as one.
Loud Light, along with the League of Women Voters, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, filed a lawsuit in June challenging the new voting restriction. The groups are waiting until a Shawnee District Court makes an official ruling on a motion to block the law that makes it a felony to be mistaken as an elected official.
Hammet said they’re expecting an update on the ruling soon, so they’ll know how to move forward.
While supporters of the new election laws that went into effect earlier this year state the goal is to make sure elections are conducted fairly, voting rights advocates beg to differ.
Jacquie Lightcap, Co-President of the League of Women Voters, said that their organizations play a significant role in the push to get out the vote, especially during local elections.
“Turnout typically is low,” Lightcap said. “The work that our organization and other organizations like us do is really important, because so many people just don’t realize that these are happening.”