WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Kansas Republicans moved to make returning absentee ballots harder for voters in their state, introducing a new bill that would limit community ballot collection. Senate Bill 292 would ban community organizations or friends, family members or other individuals from helping more than five people return their ballots. Voting rights advocates called the bill a clear attempt at voter suppression, establishing an unnecessary restriction on voting encouraged by former President Donald Trump’s frequent and baseless tirades against “ballot harvesting.” The bill was debated in the Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday, but still needs to pass the state Senate.
Community ballot collection is especially important in rural communities and for voters who otherwise have trouble getting to the polls. Voting rights organizations and other community members help these voters return their ballots — an act that Kansas Republicans would make a felony after five ballots. There have been no instances of voter fraud due to community ballot collection in Kansas. Civic action group Loud Light president Davis Hammet spoke out against the bill on Tuesday: “The only thing this will do is make it a crime to properly and dutifully help and fulfill your obligation to your neighbor. The sixth person you help, all of a sudden you lose your right to vote, and you could go to jail.”