Court Grants Preliminary Injunction to Kansas Voters’ Access to Mail Ballot Applications
KANSAS CITY, KS - On Nov. 19, 2021, a federal court temporarily blocked certain anti-voter provisions in the Kansas law H.B. 2332. The court ruled that the challenged parts of H.B. 2332 likely violate the First Amendment rights of nonpartisan organizations to engage in political speech by restricting their ability to distribute mail ballot applications to voters to promote higher levels of voting.
In June 2021, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Kansas attorney Mark Johnson filed the suit on behalf of VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center to protect voter access to mail ballot applications in the state. The two nonprofit charitable organizations, VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center, engage with voters to facilitate voting by mail as a safe and secure option to exercise the right to vote.
“By stopping this anti-voter law in its tracks, this decision protects the freedom to vote and the free speech rights of our clients,” said Paul Smith, vice president for litigation and strategy at CLC. “We will continue to protect the critical role nonpartisan, public interest organizations play in our democracy by helping voters navigate confusing systems and encouraging people to exercise their right to vote. It is vital that these organizations can continue to serve as a resource to voters.”
“The decision by the court to pause enforcement of H.B. 2332 is an important win for Kansans and our democracy," said Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Voter Participation Center (VPC). "H.B. 2332 would silence VPC’s civic engagement efforts and make voting more difficult for voters by threatening Kansans’ ability to vote-by-mail. We are proud to fight back against this dangerous anti-voter law and will keep working to ensure Americans across the country can make their voice heard.”
“As a former Kansas voter myself, I am ecstatic with the judge’s ruling, which recognizes and reinforces our standing as an essential NGO which offers Kansans tools and programs that facilitate access to their path to vote,” said Daniel McCarthy, Vice President of Finance and Operations at VoteAmerica. “In the 2020 general election, a record 70.9% of eligible Kansans cast a ballot. Our programs undoubtedly contributed to that record turnout and is something to be celebrated, not obstructed by Secretary of State, Scott Schwab, and the Kansas state legislature’s attempts to suppress voter access to the polls. VoteAmerica will continue the fight to protect our right to free unlimited communication of a pro-voter message and our right to associate with and empower voters to cast their ballot by any means available to them.”
Earlier this year, H.B. 2332 was passed in the Kansas legislature, and the governor vetoed the bill. The legislature overrode the governor’s veto and passed H.B. 2332, prohibiting voter engagement efforts that constitute core political speech under the First Amendment. The law banned distribution of mail ballot applications entirely by out-of-state groups and criminalized the mailing of advance mail ballot applications personalized with the voter’s name, address and other information, even if the voter provided that information and specifically requested an advance mail ballot application.
Protections of nonpartisan organizations engaging with the political process and providing voters with necessary voting resources are vital. VoteAmerica and the 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.
A poll by Strategies 360 found that Americans nationwide emphatically endorse efforts over the past year to give voters more options for voting safely like expanding early voting and voting-by-mail.
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