New bill may make it easier for Kansans to vote

Capitol Bureau

FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, people vote at Jamestown Town Hall in Kieler, Wis. Conservatives are asking a judge to find the Wisconsin Elections Commission in contempt for not immediately purging more than 200,000 voters from the rolls. A judge last month ordered the purge of voters who may have moved and didn’t respond within 30 days to notification sent by the elections commission in October 2019. (Nicki Kohl/Telegraph Herald via AP, File)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Ethics, Elections and Local Government Senate committee is considering a bill that would make voting more accessible for Kansans.

SB412 allows all Kansas residents to apply for permanent advanced voting status, instead of just registered voters with disabilities as it currently stands.

“We are trying to make voting as accessible, and frankly as easily accessible, as we can,” Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City), member of the committee, said.

The hope is that this encourages more Kansans to vote, such as Miguel Colon of Topeka.

“The politics and the reality of everything that is actually going on, between what’s being said and what’s being done, is just two different things,” said Colon, who does not currently vote. “I’d rather not get my hands dirty to pick someone that’s going to say one thing and do something else.”

However, if this bill were to pass, Colon said it may cause him to change his mind.

“I’ve seen places where people have voted and how crowded they are,” Colon said.

Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell said that the advanced voting status should stay primarily for people with physical disabilities.

“Is there a different way to do it, if you’re going to do it, that doesn’t somehow make it difficult for people with disabilities or physical impairments to be recognized for who they are and to make sure we know who they are and they get taken care of?” Howell said.

The bill, which was introduced by Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, is hopeful to increase voter turnout while also being more cost-effective, according to Haley.

If a person with advanced voting status does not return their ballot after two elections, they will be taken off the advanced voting list.

However, what specific elections count toward this are unclear in the bill, Haley said.

Overall, the committee agrees with the bill, it is just a matter of clarification that is stopping it from passing.

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