Kansas groups halt voter registration as new law goes into effect

Kansas

TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Some activist groups in Kansas have paused voter registration and education efforts, as new election laws go into effect in the state.

Loud Light, a state voting rights organization, said in a news release that it will suspend its voter outreach efforts starting Thursday in a video posted online, as one of the laws makes it a felony to “give the appearance of being an election official.

Another Kansas activist group, the League of Women Voters, followed in the organization’s footsteps, also taking a step back from voter outreach.

The newly enacted voting laws in Kansas will make it more difficult to vote, according to several groups who believe House Bill 2183 and House Bill 2332 will interfere with Kansans’ voting, due process and free speech.

Both organizations, joined by Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center , filed a lawsuit in June challenging the new voting restrictions. The groups are waiting until a Shawnee District Court makes an official ruling.

“Kansas saw incredible turnout numbers in the 2020 election, in large part due to the work of trusted nonpartisan organizations like the League to provide voters with accurate, timely election information. HB 2183 and HB 2332 threaten to undermine this progress by criminalizing the vital efforts of civic organizations, these anti-voter bills will have a disproportionate effect on voters with disabilities, voters of color, voters whose first language is not English, student voters, and elderly voters.”

JACQUELINE LIGHTCAP, CO-PRESIDENT OF THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF KANSAS.

According to the League of Women Voters the lawsuit challenges four aspects in particular of the new voter suppression laws: 

  1. Voter Education Restriction: It is now considered a crime to “give the appearance of being an election official.” This “false representation” provision would chill the free speech activities of organizations like the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Loud Light, Kansas Appleseed, the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center and numerous other churches, community organizations, and concerned citizens provided to ensure every Kansan knows how to safely and effectively cast their ballot.
  2. Advocacy Ban: The distribution of applications to vote an advance ballot is now prohibited if materials are mailed from outside the state. This provision hinders the legitimate advocacy efforts of organizations working to get out the vote.
  3. Signature Rejection Requirement: The new mandated signature-match regime could lead to the disqualification of a significant number of ballots each election based on the opinion of untrained election workers working without any legal standard to guide them.
  4. Delivery Assistance Ban: Kansans are no longer permitted to assist in the collection of 10 or more advance ballots, disproportionately harming Kansans with disabilities, rural Kansans, and those living on tribal lands.

“The Legislature secretively and haphazardly rushed through voter restrictions that criminalize healthy parts of our democracy, such as helping Kansans register to vote or helping a neighbor turn in their ballot, Loud Light has been working to improve Kansas election integrity for years, but these laws aren’t about election integrity. They’re barriers that block access to the ballot box and undermine the integrity of our democracy.” 

DAVIS HAMMET, LOUD LIGHT PRESIDENT.

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December 31 2021 11:59 pm