Kansas voting rights campaign to combat election fraud conspiracies, promote voter turnout

ACLU-commissioned poll finds support for expanded voting access across state

By: - May 2, 2023 2:40 pm
Kansas voters, including people using this Lawrence polling station, cast ballots Tuesday in races for U.S. House and U.S. Senate. For the first time, Lawrence residents are part of the 1st District stretching to the Colorado border. The shift devised by the GOP-led Legislature was to dilute influence of left-leaning Lawrence in congressional contests. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

A majority of Kansas voters surveyed in an ACLU-comissioned poll said lawmakers should focus on making the Kansas voting process smoother. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Several Kansas voting rights groups have pulled together, starting a campaign in reaction to GOP-backed election fraud theories and voting restrictions. 

During the legislative session, several Republican lawmakers pushed for voting restrictions under the false pretense of widespread election fraud. Proposals included a drop-box ban and increased restrictions for mail-in ballots. 

Senate Bill 209, a bill that would have eliminated the state’s three-day grace period for ballot acceptance, was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly, who said the window was necessary for rural voters relying on the U.S. postal system. The Legislature’s attempt to override Kelly’s veto failed.

During the Senate’s April 26 veto override attempt, Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, said ballots needed to be turned in by Election Day to ease concerns that fraudulent ballots were being snuck into the count.

“It’s fair to all voters to create a level playing field so they know the voting is done at a specific time and there’s not a fudge factor,” Thompson said. 

To fight this sort of rhetoric, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas in conjunction with El Centro, the League of Women Voters Topeka-Shawnee County, the League of Women Voters Wichita-Metro, Loud Light and MORE2, will host a series of events to revitalize Kansas voters. 

The campaign will focus on increasing poll locations, expanding early voting, implementing “vote from jail” programs and offering mail-in ballots, among other endeavors.

“During a time of unfounded election conspiracies being centered in the Statehouse, focusing on protecting and expanding Kansans’ access to the vote on the local level is crucial,” said Loud Light organizer Logan Byrd in an April 21 statement. 

In a poll commissioned by the ACLU surveying 600 registered Kansas voters from Jan. 26 to Jan. 31, 70% of those surveyed felt elected officials should focus on making it easier to vote in Kansas. About 78% of polled voters supported curbside voting at all polling locations, and 80% supported increasing the number of polling locations across the state.

 About 76% of surveyed Democrats voiced support for expanded voting access, with 47% of Republicans voters also supporting expanded voter access. 

“Kansas voters know what their needs are, and we’re at a new moment for this work in the state, with several critical organizations uniting to ensure Kansans can hold their elected officials accountable to honor the fundamental right to vote,” said Leslie Butsch, field director at the ACLU of Kansas.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.