VICTORY: Court Blocks Kansas Anti-Voter Law Targeting Civic Engagement Groups
In a victory for the voters of Kansas, a federal court sided with the Voter Participation Center to permanently block the enforcement of anti-voter provisions in HB 2332. This is a win for democracy and will make elections more accessible for all eligible voters of Kansas. U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil ruled today that the law “is an unconstitutional infringement on plaintiff’s First Amendment rights to speech and association.”
In 2021, the Voter Participation Center, a nonprofit civic-engagement organization which helps to register and turnout voters, including to vote by mail, filed suit against Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe. Later that year, the district court granted VPC a preliminary injunction stopping the law from going into effect. With this ruling, the district court makes that decision final. Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Kansas attorney Mark Johnson represented the non-profit.
The Kansas Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto and passed HB 2332, an omnibus elections bill that prohibits out-of-state entities from mailing advance mail ballot applications to any voter in the state, in violation of the organizations’ ability to engage in voter engagement efforts that constitute core political speech under the First Amendment. HB 2332 would have 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.
“Kansas’s law was one in a nationwide trend by state legislatures moving to restrict the freedom to vote,” said Paul Smith, Vice President for Litigation and Strategy at the Campaign Legal Center. “Beyond just targeting voters, however, laws like HB 2332 specifically take aim at the ability of nonpartisan, public interest organizations to help people navigate confusing systems and encourage them to exercise their ability to vote by mail. HB 2332 is unconstitutional, and we are glad the court sided with voters and the organizations who help voters make their voice heard. ”
“HB 2332 was a dangerous law and that is why we took action. It would have made voting more difficult for Kansans by threatening their ability to vote-by-mail,” said Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Voter Participation Center (VPC). “In the 2020 election, we saw firsthand the urgency of vote-by-mail in the midst of the pandemic. That’s why we fought back–to protect Kansans from this assault on our democracy. We will keep working to ensure every American can make their voice heard.”
The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s rights to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process.
The Voter Participation Center is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2003 to help members of the New American Majority register and vote. Since then, the organization has helped more than 5.7 million people register and cast ballots.