Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Rejects Election Measures, Calls for Action on Pressing Concerns

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Rejects Election Measures, Calls for Action on Pressing Concerns

On Friday, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two election-related laws passed by the Republican-led Legislature.

Kelly vetoed House Bills 2614 and 2618.

“Restrictive voting legislation of any kind is wrong,” Kelly stated in a veto message. “Instead of making it more challenging for Kansans to participate in our democracy or focusing on problems that do not exist, I would urge the legislature to focus on real issues impacting Kansans.”

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, sees things differently.

“We can never rest on our laurels when it comes to the security of Kansas elections,” Hawkins said in a statement. “These common-sense pieces of legislation simply shore up current election laws and ensure the federal government isn’t putting its thumb unfairly on the scale in either direction.”

HB 2614 amends the voting process by requiring someone who delivers another voter’s ballot to meet extra criteria. The provisions would make it easier to enforce the state’s recent statute prohibiting anyone from distributing more than 10 advance ballots. Supporters of the law call such practice ballot harvesting, while opponents claim it allows certain voters, such as those in nursing homes, to participate in elections.

“This bill is an attempt to disenfranchise Kansas voters by enacting burdensome and unnecessary requirements that are designed to restrict and suppress advanced voting,” Kelly said in a statement. “Kansans have the right to participate in our democracy, but some politicians have repeatedly attempted to meddle with the voting process. I will continue to resist measures that put barriers between citizens casting ballots and having their voices heard.”

HB 2618 would also change a recent state statute that is being challenged in court. Republicans believe the adjustment reduces the likelihood that the measure will be declared unconstitutional. That rule makes impersonating an election official illegal, which civil groups argue effectively criminalizes voter registration activities.

“There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or instances of individuals impersonating election officials in Kansas,” Kelly said in a statement. The bill also prohibits election officials from using federal funds for election-related operations such as voter registration without express authority under both state and federal law.

“Additionally, there is no reason to potentially restrict the use of federal funds for election purposes,” he stated. “Kansas is already one of the states with the lowest utilization of federal funds. Accepting these funds helps Kansas maintain the smooth operation of our elections.”

HB 2614 lacked veto-proof majority in both chambers. Neither did HB 2618, which would have supermajorities if previously absent Republicans returned for an override effort and voted with their caucus.

Hawkins stated that override attempts will occur.

“House Republicans will continue fighting to keep our elections secure and ensure voter confidence,” stated Speaker Paul Ryan.

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