Kansas agencies mailing 277,000 voter registration applications

Gov. Laura Kelly's mailing effort should see more than 277,000 Kansans receive voter registration applications in the mail. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Hundreds of thousands of people across the state have already or will soon receive a voter registration application in the mail as part of a state effort to ensure eligible Kansans can vote in the upcoming general election.

With COVID-19 hampering outreach and registration efforts, Gov. Laura Kelly, along with the Kansas Department for Children and Families, mailed voter registration applications to more than 150,000 individuals between March and September. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment plans to send another 127,000 to additional households in September.

“As we enter the homestretch of the 2020 election, it is vital that every eligible voter has a chance to register to vote and participate in our democracy,” Kelly said. “My administration has taken several steps to improve our outreach to Kansans — especially during this pandemic — and these efforts are already bearing fruit.”

DCF and KDHE sent the voter registration application to Kansans to break down barriers created by the pandemic and to ensure compliance with a federal law.

Last November, several advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, Demos, and Loud Light notified Kelly and other state officials of areas to improve to ensure compliance with the National Voter Registration Act. 

The NVRA requires public assistance agencies, like DCF and KDHE, to provide clients with voter registration services whenever they apply for or renew benefits or change address. 

“These mailings are a major step toward bringing Kansas into full compliance with federal voting rights laws — and not a moment too soon,” said Lauren Bonds, legal director of ACLU of Kansas. “We appreciate Gov. Kelly’s efforts and the hard work of the agency staff, and we expect that thousands of additional Kansans will participate in a historic election as a result.”

The mailing effort in Kansas mirrors those occurring across the country. The ACLU, Demos and partners have also worked in states that include Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan and Virginia to help reach compliance with the NVRA.

In addition to the mailings, DCF and KDHE have upgraded and are still looking at additional ways to improve upon the state’s online voter registration application portal. 

State officials “are doing their parts to ensure that all eligible Kansans have the chance to participate this November,” said Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, a group that promotes election participation. “If you receive Medicaid, SNAP or LIEAP, please check your mailbox because your next letter could be your invitation to shape the future of Kansas and the entire country by voting this year.”

Hammet and voting rights groups encouraged Kansans to vote early in person or by mail as soon as they are able.

To vote in the general election, Kansas residents must be registered to vote by Oct. 13.