Kelly vetoes ‘ballot harvesting’ bill

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Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday vetoed a bill capping the number of ballots third parties can collect and deliver to election offices on behalf of someone else, saying there’s no evidence of voter fraud to justify the legislation.

“This bill is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is designed to disenfranchise Kansans, making it difficult for them to participate in the democratic process, not to stop voter fraud,” Kelly said in a statement.

Kelly also raised the spector that businesses could abandon the state if it passes laws that severely restrict voting rights.

“Hundreds of major companies across the nation have made it abundantly clear that this kind of legislation is wrong,” the governor said.

“Antagonizing the very businesses Kansas is trying to recruit is not how we continue to grow our economy,” she said.

The bill passed the Senate with the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto and four votes short needed for a successful overrride in the House.

It was was one of the hottest issues debated at the Capitol this year as voting rights advocates contended it would suppress voter turnout.

The bill limits to 10 the number of ballots that could be delivered to an election office by a third party, which would curtail efforts to collect ballots in mass.

A violation of the law is a misdemeanor.

The bill “could send Kansans to jail for helping elderly, disabled and rural neighbors return their ballots,” said voting rights advocate Davis Hammet.

“The bill is based on misinformation and misunderstanding, and has the potential to cause a chilling effect on democracy in Kansas,” Hammet said.

“HB2183 is voter suppression in search of justification,” he said.

Supporters of the bill said the process of collecting a large number of ballots – known as “ballot harvesting” – was ripe for abuse, although they never pointed to specific examples of fraud in Kansas.

They said the bill was intended to safeguard against the possibility of a campaign volunteer tampering with a ballot returned on someone else’s behalf.

“Unfortunately, Gov. Kelly decided to reject election proposals from the Legislature that continue to make sure that our elections are secure and safe,” said Republican state Rep. Blake Carpenter, chair of the House elections committee.

“I look forward to working with the Legislature to override her vetoes on these important proposals,” Carpenter said.

While Secretary of State Scott Schwab had said there were no irregularities during the Kansas elections, Carpenter said the bill is only intended to keep anything from running afoul in Kansas.

The bill also:
  • Bars candidates for office from delivering an advance voting ballot on behalf of another voter unless it is on behalf of an immediate family member.
  • Prohibits candidates from assisting any voter in marking an advance ballot or signing an advance ballot form.
  • Prohibits county election officers from accepting an advance voting ballot sent by mail unless they verify that the signature on an advance voting ballot envelope matches the signature on file in the county voter registration records.
  • Creates the crime of falsely representing an election official, which could include conduct that would lead someone to believe they were an election official. Critics said this provision could lead to Kansans being charged with a crime just by helping someone register to vote.

The bill passed the Senate on a 27-11 vote. It passed in the House 80-42.