June 1, 2021

Kansas Civic Groups File Lawsuit Against Newly Enacted Voter Suppression Laws

TOPEKA, KS – Today, the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Loud Light, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center filed a lawsuit challenging newly enacted voting laws in Kansas that will make it more difficult for Kansans to vote. House Bill 2183 and House Bill 2332 violate the Kansas Constitution by interfering with Kansans’ voting, due process and free speech and association rights.

Kansas saw record-setting numbers in the 2020 general election. Over 1.3 million Kansans voted (72% of all registered voters) with over 450,000 voting by mail using an advance ballot and another 370,000 returning their advance ballots in person. HB 2183 and HB 2332 would erode the turnout gains of 2020 by hindering organizations who inform and assist voters.

“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,” said Jacqueline Lightcap, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “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.”

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,” said Davis Hammet, Loud Light president. “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.” 

“TILRC has worked since 1993 to improve accessibility for elderly and disabled voters in Kansas. Rather than address continuing access barriers to voting for elderly and disabled Kansans, the legislature has added procedural barriers to the process through discriminatory signature scrutiny and draconian ballot delivery limitations” noted Ami Hyten, Executive Director of the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center. 

“The newly enacted laws show how intent the Kansas Legislature was to suppress Kansas voters and obstruct our constitutional rights,” said Jami Reever, Kansas Appleseed executive director. “All Kansans deserve to be trusted with our vote and to have our voices heard through accessible, strong, and legitimate elections.”

Plaintiffs are represented by Irigonergaray, Turney, and Revenaugh LLP and Perkins Coie LLP.

View the complaint here: https://www.democracydocket.com/cases/kansas-voter-suppression-bills/

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About League of Women Voters of Kansas: The League of Women Voters of Kansas is a nonpartisan, grassroots civic organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Learn more at LWVK.org and find voter information at VOTE411.org

About LoudLight: Loud Light engages, educates, and empowers individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power that has an impact on decision makers. We’re Transforming Kansas through voter registration, informative videos, coalition building, civic engagement, and youth voter turnout. Learn more at www.loudlight.org.

About Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice: Kansas Appleseed is a statewide organization that believes Kansans, working together, can build a state full of thriving, inclusive, and just communities. Kansas Appleseed conducts policy research and analysis and works with communities and partners to understand the root causes of problems and advocate for comprehensive solutions. For more information, visit www.kansasappleseed.org.

About the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center: The Topeka Independent Living Resource Center is a human and civil rights organization with a mission to advocate for justice, equality and essential services for a fully integrated and accessible society for all people with disabilities. For more information, please visit www.tilrc.org

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PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix, 202-809-9668, kvix@lwv.org


 

December 16, 2020

Press Release sent to statewide media outlets

Kansas League of Women Voters Celebrates SCOTUS Decision in Voting Rights Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the League of Women Voters of Kansas case, Fish v. Schwab (previously Fish v. Kobach), affirming that Kansas voters do not need to provide documentary proof of citizenship (DPOC) when registering to vote. The court’s decision keeps in place a previous court ruling that found this proof of citizenship requirement violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act.

“League of Women Voters members are extremely encouraged that the Supreme Court let stand the ruling that this law is a burden to voters and violated their constitutional right to vote,” said Cille King, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “This proof-of-citizenship law did nothing to protect elections. It only barred tens of thousands of legitimate voters from making their voices heard.”

This documentary proof of citizenship requirement resulted in thousands of citizens going into a suspended voter registration status. It discriminated against minorities and young people without birth documents in hand, women who had to pay to get out-of-state birth or marriage documents, and elderly people born at home, not born in hospitals, King added.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas brought this case along with several individual Kansas voters back in 2016, with representation by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kansas, and Dechert LLP. A federal trial court struck down the law in June of 2018, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision in April 2020. The proof-of-citizenship requirement has been blocked since 2018.

“League members faced a multitude of barriers in trying to inform voters how to comply with the proof-of-citizenship requirement,” said Teresa Briggs, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “We were pleased when the law was struck down in 2018, and we’re similarly gratified by Monday’s Supreme Court decision which means the end of the road for our lawsuit against voter suppression. It makes it easier, not harder, for Kansans and hopefully others across the country, to exercise their right to vote.”

The League was also heartened that during the 2020 fall election, the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States was recorded, Briggs said, thanks to efforts of many organizations to register voters, and get out the vote, including informing and encouraging citizens who needed to vote safely by mail.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas is a nonpartisan, grassroots, volunteer political organization with nine local Leagues across the state. LWVK encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League never endorses candidates or parties.


September 18, 2020

Press Release sent to statewide media outlets

Your Vote is Your Voice

With the General Election only weeks away, the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWVK) is encouraging Kansans to register to vote, update your current registration, and make a plan to vote safely by mail, vote in advance at your county election office, or vote in person on Nov. 3.

“It is more important than ever for everyone to use their right to vote to make their voices heard.” said Teresa Briggs, LWVK co-president.” The League suggests that voters visit VOTE411.org where they can find the candidates that will be on their ballot, and read answers posted by candidates to questions on relevant issues provided by the League.

“Many efforts are being made by election officials to help us vote safely,” said Cille King, LWVK co-president, “including possibly having locked drop boxes where voters can deposit their completed and signed mail-in ballots.” To find out how to check on your voter registration, request a voter registration form, or request an application for a mail-in ballot, the League has provided the following instructions and much more:

Important dates and helpful tips for Election Day from the League of Women Voters:

The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 13. You can register or check on your voter registration at KSVotes.org, on the Kansas Secretary of State website, or by calling your County Election Office to ask them to mail you a registration form. You must re-register if you have changed your name or address since you last voted. You should receive confirmation of your registration; if not, contact your County Election Office.

Vote safely with a mail-in ballot. Request an application for a mail-in ballot at KSVotes.org, or by calling your County Election Office. Be sure to allow enough time before Tuesday, Oct. 27 to request, receive, and return your ballot by mail. You may also hand-carry it to your Election Office prior to Election Day, or deliver it to your polling place on Election Day.

Learn about the candidates. Read the newspaper or locate forums. At VOTE411.org find your polling place and what will be on your ballot. The League of Women Voters of Kansas poses questions to candidates about various issues and informs voters on how each candidate answered at VOTE411.org.

Consider advance voting. Early voting can start in-person at County Election Offices on Oct. 14. Call your office for dates and times to avoid lines.

If you vote in-person, take your photo ID with you to the polls. Due to COVID-19, voters may use driver’s licenses or identification cards that expired between March 12, 2020 and September 15, 2020, for the general election. For a list of acceptable Voter IDs, go to Kansas Secretary of State’s website. 

If given a Provisional Ballot at the polls, follow up with your County Election Office immediately after the election to resolve the issue so that your vote counts!

To support the League of Women Voters of Kansas or learn more about their work, visit lwvk.org.

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The League of Women Voters of Kansas is a nonpartisan, grassroots, volunteer political organization with nine local Leagues and at-large members across the state. LWVK encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League never endorses candidates or parties.


May 1, 2020

Press Release sent to statewide and national media outlets

LWV of Kansas Celebrates Decision Affirming State Cannot Require Citizenship Proof

DENVER—Wednesday, a federal appeals court panel ruled in the League of Women Voters of Kansas case, Fish v. Schwab (previously Fish v. Kobach), that Kansas voters do not need to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The decision keeps in place a previous court ruling that found the citizenship proof requirement violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act. 

“We’re grateful the court ruled that this law is a burden to voters and violated the constitutional right to vote,” said Cille King, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “This proof-of-citizenship law did nothing to protect elections. It only barred tens of thousands of legitimate voters from making their voices heard. Today’s win affirms the need to put voters first in all our election laws.” 

The League of Women Voters of Kansas brought this case along with several individual Kansas voters back in 2016, with representation by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Kansas, and Dechert LLP. A federal trial court struck down the law in June of 2018, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling this week affirmed that decision. The proof-of-citizenship requirement has been blocked since 2016. 

“The League spent countless hours and considerable resources informing voters of how to comply with the proof-of-citizenship requirement,” said Teresa Briggs, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “We were relieved when the law was struck down in 2018, and we’re similarly relieved with the affirmative decision this week. Now, we call on Secretary of State Scott Schwab to end Kris Kobach’s assault on Kansas voting rights and drop any further appeals.” 

Kansas’s next election is the Democratic presidential primary on May 2. The general primary is scheduled for August 4, and the deadline to register for that election is July 14.  

To support the League of Women Voters of Kansas or learn more about their work, visit lwvk.org.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas is a nonpartisan, grassroots, volunteer political organization with nine local Leagues across the state. LWVK encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League never endorses candidates or parties.

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September 18, 2019

OpEd Submitted to statewide media outlets

League of Women Voters celebrates increase in voter registration

By Cille King and Teresa Briggs, Co-Presidents, League of Women Voters of Kansas

The League of Women Voters of Kansas wants the public to know that an analysis of voting data from 2014 to 2018 shows a dramatic increase in voter registration.

As we approach National Voter Registration Day, the League recalls our struggle the past eight years to protect the vote for all in Kansas. The so-called SAFE Act of 2011 created historic barriers to the vote in our state. We knew, for instance, that 16% of those attempting to register to vote after 2011 did not complete their registrations because of lack of easy access to birth certificates, or other needed documents, to prove they were citizens. In June 2018, the Kansas City District Federal Court found that requiring documentary proof of citizenship at the time of voter registration was unconstitutional and in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

At the request of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Dr. Michael Smith, Professor of Political Science at Emporia State University, compared 2014-2018 voter registration and voting data from the Kansas Secretary of State (See Smith’s full analysis at https://lwvk.org/centennial/votingstats). He found that between the 2014 and 2018 midterms, voter registrations increased by a dramatic 241% statewide. In counties with LWV chapters, the average increase was 258%. Credit for this increase goes to the ACLU legal experts, and volunteers from the League of Women Voters, political parties and other organizations, who encouraged online and in-person registration using the federal form following the court decision. Sedgwick County exceeded all counties with a 310% increase in registrations alone.

But the job is not complete. Generations of Kansans lack education in civics following the “No Child Left Behind” emphasis on reading and math. Registration of young people and assistance with their ability to vote at an early age is important. If you haven’t voted by the time you are 30, there’s a 90% chance you will never vote.

Kansans still face barriers to vote because of the photo ID requirement at the polls. In 2012, the first time the government-issued photo ID was required in Kansas, Pew Research found a decline of 3% in voting statewide. Today between 6% and 25%, depending on the makeup of poor, young and elderly in a community, are likely to be disenfranchised by the photo ID requirement.

While free photo ID may be available at the DMV, the process can be expensive and complex, with time, money and transportation issues, causing discrimination against certain groups of eligible voters. The League is asking everyone to be sensitive to the needs and the rights of all our citizens by helping others to acquire photo ID, helping them to register, and getting them to the polls, so they can participate in our democracy.

Go online to Vote411.org to register to vote, find your polling place, and see answers from candidates to questions posed by the League. To request volunteers to help register voters, email the LWVK office at contactus@lwvk.org. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization which studies and then pursues advocacy related to governmental issues, but does not endorse candidates or political parties. The LWVK office or your local Election Office can also address problems you might have related to registering and voting.

 


July 12, 2018

League of Women Voters of Kansas Launches Voter Education Website VOTE411.org

The League of Women Voters of Kansas is announcing the launch of the nonpartisan election resource www.vote411.org. This “one-stop-shop” for statewide election information provides simple, helpful tools to help Kansas voters navigate the voting process. VOTE411.org provides candidates’ answers to questions, voter registration tools, polling place information, and other helpful Election Day tips. By entering their address, citizens can see which races and candidates will be on their ballot, and read candidates’ answers to questions about issues of concern in their community.

 “Voters need simple, helpful tools to help them navigate the voting process and Election Day,” said Carole Neal, chair of the VOTE411.org effort for the Kansas League. “VOTE411.org is the nation’s premiere online election resource, and the League of Women Voters of Kansas has added our voter’s guide to VOTE411.org, so that it can serve as a resource for all voters in Kansas.”

The League of Women Voters of Kansas has invited candidates to post answers to questions on the VOTE411.org website, so that anyone from the public can compare the candidates’ statements online. The League says that about 25.4 million voters in the United States have used VOTE411.org to find the information they need, many of them young people and first-time voters.

“What makes the League’s voter guide unique is that each candidate’s responses are posted verbatim, so voters will get the message in the candidate’s own words,” said Neal. The League is encouraging any candidates who have not yet posted their answers to respond as soon as possible. If anyone has questions about VOTE411.org, they can call and leave a message at the LWVK office, 785-234-5152.

 VOTE411.org is convenient, easy and invaluable for voters who want reliable information about voting in Kansas,” added Neal. “We urge everyone to prepare for the Primary Election on Aug. 7 and the General Election on Nov. 6, by visiting VOTE411.org, and of course, we want to remind everyone to get registered by July 17, so they can vote in the Primary.”                

Members of the nine local leagues across Kansas have been registering voters at every opportunity at locations or events in their communities, and they will continue sponsoring registration drives and candidate forums up until the General Election on Nov. 6. The Kansas League has also started outreach to recruit League members in Southeast and Southwest Kansas and Hays, and have been giving voter registration training to new members and civic-minded people in those areas.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership is open to men and women. With 800 affiliates across the country, the League is one of the nation’s most trusted organizations. For more information about the League of Women Voters in Kansas, visit lwvk.org.

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The League of Women Voter of Kansas wants Kansans to know the following to ensure that their votes count:

Register to Vote / Update Your Voter Registration

The last day to register to vote before the Primary in Kansas is July 17You can register to vote online at ksvotes.org or visit your County Election Office. You can also call your Election Office to find out how to register by mail (they send you a voter registration form to mail in). If you have moved or changed your name, you need to update your registration.

Have Your Photo ID 

Make sure you have in your possession a government issued photo ID when you get to the polls. Photo ID is a significant deterrent for those who do not drive. Call the League of Women Voters of Kansas office785-234-5152, for help in getting a necessary ID required to vote in Kansas under current law. All IDs must have first and last name and photo. Any voter over 65 years of age can use an expired ID. IDs do NOT have to have the voters’ current address. Acceptable IDs include: Driver’s license or nondriver’s ID card, concealed carry license, U.S. passport, Kansas municipal, county, state, or federal government employee ID, U.S. military ID, KS public school or higher education institution student or employee ID, accredited postsecondary private institution student ID, government public assistance ID card, and American Indian ID card.

Know About Advanced and Mail-in Ballots

Vote from the comfort of your home with a mailed ballot. All voters can ask for a mailed ballot to be sent to them. Fill out an Application for Advance Ballot by Mail (AVIM). This form can be received by your County Election Office up to 90 days, but no less than a week, before an election. Unless you are disabled (form AV2), you need to provide this form for every election.

2017 Legislative changes in the mailed ballot allow you to submit this ballot to your County Election Office or your polling place on election day. You can also have it counted if your ballot is postmarked by election day and received in the County Election Office by the Friday after the election.

Vote in the Primary Election on Aug. 7

Unaffiliated voters can affiliate with either the Democratic or Republican party at any time, including when you go to vote in the Primary Election on Aug. 7.

See Candidate Information at VOTE411.org

Find your candidates’ answers to important topics at VOTE411.org. This nationally recognized website provides the voter information that you need. League of Women Voters of Kansas is providing this information to help educate voters across the state about their candidates’ positions on the issues.

 


June 19, 2018

League of Women Voters Marks Victory in Federal Court Voting Rights Case

 

The decision to become plaintiffs in a suit against the Kansas documentary proof of citizenship law, devised by the Kansas Secretary of State and passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2011, drew the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWVK) into a historical fight for democracy.

“But it was not the first time,” noted current LWVK co-presidents, Cille King and Teresa Briggs. “The League has long fought to gain, protect, and empower the vote for all citizens.” Nearly 100 years ago, the very first local League of Women Voters met in Wichita, directly after the close of the Suffragist convention in Chicago after the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Since that time League members, both women and men on the local, state, and national level, have helped citizens access the vote, conducted candidate forums and debates, and regularly studied and reached consensus on public policy issues.

“But stepping into a lawsuit in Kansas against the most suppressive voter laws in the nation was a frightening leap of faith in the the rule of law,” said King.

Judge Robinson gave a preliminary injunction in June 2016, and Kansans were able to fully register to vote when at the DMV without providing documentary proof of citizenship. As a result of a preliminary injunction in another lawsuit brought by the League, League of Women Voters v. Newby, Kansans were also able to fully register to vote with the Federal Voter Registration form without providing documentary proof of citizenship. Judge Robinson’s ruling on Monday–which found that the documentary proof of citizenship requirement violates both federal law and the U.S. Constitution–makes her preliminary injunction permanent and strikes down the documentary proof of citizenship requirement entirely.

Filing a lawsuit was our last resort,” said immediate past co-president Marge Ahrens, “against what we knew first hand to be harmful to our very mission as a volunteer organization.” The Kansas League was once again making history in regard to the vote, though unknowingly. When Ms. Ahrens was asked to testify on behalf of the LWVK, the League volunteer members were on the ground struggling to help potential voters comply with the multiple steps needed to fulfill the law’s requirements.

“Our history, our principles, and our passion for all citizens to access the vote, to want to vote, to be informed about their vote,” said Ms. Ahrens, “was waiting to be told in court.”

Ms. Ahrens said that as she prepared to tell it, she had no idea of the history the League was making with Fish/League of Women Voters of Kansas v. Kobach, which is the first case in the nation in which the existence and extent of voter fraud and non-citizens voting was tested at trial.

“What a privilege to represent this organization, the League of Women Voters, long believing in our mission to empower every voter and strengthen our democracy,” said Ms. Ahrens. “And to be represented with the skill, depth and passion of our extraordinary ACLU legal team.”