WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, May 4, a federal judge struck down part of a Kansas voter suppression law that prohibited individuals or organizations from sending personalized, early mail-in ballot applications with pre-filled information (such as the voter’s name or address) to registered Kansas voters. This voter victory stems from a 2021 lawsuit filed by VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center challenging multiple provisions of Kansas’ voter suppression law, House Bill 2332, for violating the U.S. Constitution. Back in February 2022, the court permanently blocked a separate provision of H.B. 2332 that prohibited out-of-state individuals and organizations from sending early mail-in ballot applications to voters, ruling that it violated the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Yesterday’s opinion striking down Kansas’ ban on sending personalized mail-in ballot applications to voters is an unequivocal win for voters. In the order, the judge held that the ban violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by infringing on the plaintiffs’ rights to free speech and association. Additionally, the judge held that the provision, which “criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech and association,” is unconstitutionally overbroad. In ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the judge employed strict scrutiny (the highest standard of judicial review) and flatly rejected Kansas’ argument that the state had a compelling and narrowly tailored state interest in enacting the ban on sending personalized mail-in ballot applications.
“Defendants have not established that the Personalized Application Prohibition is narrowly tailored to achieve the state’s alleged interests in the enhancement of public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process and avoiding fraud, the avoidance of voter confusion or the facilitation of orderly and efficient election administration,” the opinion stated. “Defendants have presented no evidence of a single instance in which a voter received duplicate mail ballots…Kansas officials publicly declared that the 2020 election was successful, without widespread, systematic issues of voter fraud, intimidation, irregularities or voting problems,” the opinion continued.
Back in March, a state appellate court in Kansas allowed a lawsuit challenging provisions of another Kansas voter suppression law, House Bill 2183, to proceed. H.B. 2183, among other anti-voting provisions, restricts ballot collection, imposes a signature verification requirement and more. Simultaneously, appellate proceedings in the state-level lawsuit are ongoing in the Kansas Supreme Court regarding a separate challenged provision of H.B. 2183 known as the “false representation provision.” This provision makes it a felony for an individual to knowingly “[r]epresent oneself as an election official, engage in conduct that gives the appearance of being an election official or engage in conduct that would cause another person to believe a person engaging in such conduct is an election official.” The lawsuit asserts that this provision violates the Kansas Constitution.