Judge won’t block new Kansas voting law

By: - September 16, 2021 6:42 pm

Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson denied a request by four voting advocacy groups to temporarily block an election law that criminalizes knowingly impersonating an election official. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A Shawnee County judge Thursday allowed Kansas to continue enforcing a controversial election law, rejecting arguments it will inhibit voter registration and education efforts. 

District Judge Teresa Watson denied a request by four voting advocacy groups to temporarily block the law while a lawsuit filed before the statute took effect July 1 plays out. The groups — the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Loud Light, Kansas Appleseed and Topeka Independent Living Resource Center — objected to a provision in the law that criminalizes knowingly impersonating an election official, arguing it has forced them to cease routine activities that could be interpreted to as a violation of the statute. 

Watson rejected this argument, emphasizing that the law requires the individual to “knowingly” misrepresent themselves as an election officer to violate the law. 

“Plaintiffs downplay the word ‘knowingly’ … almost to the point of ignoring it,” Watson said, adding that, “The scenarios described by Plaintiffs in their affidavits do not help them. A representative of each organizational Plaintiff stated that its members always identify themselves as members of their respective organizations and not as election officials.”

The action comes just two days after the parties battled in court over the merits of the new law, which threatens felony prosecution for violators. 

The lawsuit also addresses several other provisions in the legislation, including a limit on the number of advance ballots an individual can deliver on behalf of others. The groups say these laws will make it harder for senior citizens, members of minority groups, young voters and rural residents to cast their ballots.

A separate federal lawsuit is challenging another state law, which bars out-of-state actors from mailing advance ballots to voters in Kansas.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.