Court Temporarily Blocks Kansas Law Prohibiting Distribution of Mail Ballot Applications

A pen lying across an absentee ballot application

A federal court temporarily blocked certain anti-voter provisions in the Kansas law H.B. 2332 on Nov. 19, 2021. 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. 

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. 

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.  

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.

By stopping this anti-voter law in its tracks, this decision protects the freedom to vote and the free speech rights of nonpartisan organizations.

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. We all deserve to be able to exercise our freedom to vote to make our voices heard on the issues that matter most to us — like healthcare, education and job creation.

To enable voters to be able to participate in government, CLC 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.

Kim is CLC's Director, Communications.
Georgia is a Communications Assistant at CLC.
Challenging Laws Prohibiting the Distribution of Mail Ballot Applications