Nonpartisan civic engagement groups, which assist citizens in their efforts to engage with the political process, have long played a vital role in our democracy. Yet their endeavors are increasingly coming under attack by state legislatures across the country.
Defending Nonpartisan Civic Engagement Organizations in Kansas (Voter Participation Center v. Schwab)
At a Glance
CLC sued Kansas over its law which makes it more difficult for public interest charities to assist voters with registering to vote and requesting absentee ballots.Back to top
About this Case
The Kansas Legislature passed a bill, HB 2332, that would limit the freedom to vote, overriding a veto by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. The bill has now become law. The law makes it harder for charities to participate in voter assistance efforts and violates the U.S. Constitution’s protections for free speech.
Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and its co-counsel Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLC are challenging the law on behalf of two public interest nonprofits seeking to help voters in the state, VoteAmerica and Voter Participation Center, which help register voters and mails absentee voting applications to voters. The lawsuit, filed on June 2, 2021, is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.
Third party groups fill a critical public need because state election websites are often antiquated and confusing. Nonpartisan civic organizations such as CLC’s clients have long played a vital role in our democracy by assisting citizens in their efforts to engage with the political process and providing them with the resources to make that engagement possible. VoteAmerica and Voter Participation Center served this important function in Kansas during the 2020 election, helping achieve historic turnout in the Sunflower State by encouraging and helping tens of thousands of Kansans to vote through advance ballots.
Solution in Search of a Problem
Elections in Kansas in 2020 were safe and secure and had high turnout, with over 1.3 million Kansas participating, an increase of nearly 6% over the 2016 presidential election. More Kansans filed advance mail voting applications in the November 2020 elections than in the 2018 and 2016 elections combined. The Kansas Secretary of State said the state had a “free and fair” election last year, according to the Kansas City Star.
Unfortunately, instead of embracing organizations like CLC’s clients in their effort to assist voters, the state has sought to shut down their efforts to advance ballot applications in Kansas by enacting HB 2332. The bill imposes severe restrictions on the distribution of mail voting applications by third-party organizations.
Governor Kelly said about the legislation that “this bill is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is designed to disenfranchise Kansans, making it difficult for them to participate in the democratic process.”
The Kansas law fits a disturbing trend of statehouses in 2021 moving to limit the freedom to vote following record turnout in the 2020 election.