Voters cast advance ballots on July 29, 2022, at the Shawnee County Elections Office in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — A federal judge has refused to ban the use of drop boxes and electronic voting machines in Kansas for the Nov. 8 general election, rejecting an argument that the devices are vulnerable to Chinese communists who are plotting to weaken America.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree denied a request by six Kansans to intervene in the upcoming election. Crabtree said the plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit in September, were “long on suspicion, contingency and hypothesis, but short on facts.”
The plaintiffs raised concerns that Kansas counties have contracts with vendors that have ties to Chinese communists, who could use election data to intimidate poll workers and influence elections.
“But how might that happen?” Crabtree wrote in a 12-page ruling Wednesday. “What facts provide an inference that there’s a ‘significant risk’ that this will happen? And how would a court order banning use of voting machines and drop boxes spare these evils? Plaintiffs provide no cogent or even plausible answer for those questions.”
The lawsuit is the latest attempt by conspiracy theorists to undermine confidence in elections. One of the plaintiffs, Melissa Leavitt, initiated a frivolous recount after voters on Aug. 2 overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment on abortion. The other plaintiffs are Katie Roberts, Rosemary Walker, Thad Snider, Stacie Harvey and Hannah Mingucci.
In their lawsuit, they asked the court to decertify the results of the 2020 presidential election and “rerun” the election. They claim that Kansas failed to properly certify voting machines purchased after July 6, 2017, rendering all elections since 2017 null and void. But, Crabtree noted in his ruling, they couldn’t explain why they waited until September 2022 to file their lawsuit. He also pointed out that some counties have used drop boxes for decades.
Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab has repeatedly said Kansas elections are secure and accurate.
Whitney Tempel, spokeswoman for Schwab, said the court’s opinion was clear: “In denying plaintiffs’ demand to ban election equipment in the 2022 general election, the court reaffirmed that there is no evidence to support allegations that there were problems with the 2020 and 2022 elections in Kansas. This is the fifth Kansas court to categorically reject these claims.”
The Secretary of State’s Office said 107,338 advanced ballots were mailed Wednesday, the first day for advanced voting.
Crabtree said in his ruling that it would be inappropriate for a federal court to change the rules so close to the election, which could confuse voters. He noted the turnout for the August primary suggests more voters could participate in the general election than in past election cycles.
“Kansas’s popularly elected leaders have chosen processes and methods to use in the state’s elections,” Crabtree said. “It may not represent the system that plaintiffs prefer, and our Constitution entitles them to express their opinions. But nothing in the current record entitles them to sweeping use of federal judicial power to impose their views on their state or their fellow Kansans.”
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