TOPEKA (KSNT) – Some Kansans’ phones are receiving text messages containing misleading information just one day before the vote for a new constitutional amendment on abortion rights.
The following quote is the text message that people received on August 1: “Women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights. Voting YES on the Amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health. Stop2End.”
The text message has prompted the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission to issue a response along with House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer and the Value Them Both Coalition.
This afternoon, my office phones lit up with non-stop calls from concerned Kansans after receiving targeted text messages from an anonymous sender. These texts intentionally spread disinformation saying that a YES vote on the anti-abortion constitutional amendment protects women’s right to an abortion. That is a lie. There is one word to describe this kind of politics: Dirty. Since day 1, the language of this amendment has sought to mislead and confuse voters. Among other efforts, House Democrats tried to clarify the language but all were blocked by the supermajority.House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer
Mackenzie Haddix, the Deputy Communications Director of Value Them Both, gave the following statement to 27 News regarding the anonymous text messages:
This is not from any member organization of the Value Them Both Coalition, nor the coalition itself. All Value Them Both Coalition communications include identifying information of the source, which this text does not.Mackenzie Haddix
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission sought to answer two questions regarding the text message. The first regarded text message advocacy regarding constitutional ballot initiatives. According to the KGEC, this type of advocacy does not require paid-for disclaimers as Kansas statutes only address newspapers, radio and TV communication along with a few other methods.
Paid text messages that advocate for candidates do require attribution, but constitutional ballot initiatives do not. Constitutional ballot initiative advocacy falls under a different statute that includes nothing about text messaging or anything similar.Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission statement
Text message advocacy thus does not require a paid-for disclaimer considering a constitutional amendment.
The second question the KGEC addressed regarded accuracy of communications. This question was answered in 2004 when the KGEC noted that there was nothing in the Campaign Finance Act that addresses the use of misleading advertising.
As of the time this article was published, the identity of the organization responsible for sending the text message out is unknown.