Kansas City, KS. — Today, two voting organizations filed suit in federal court in Kansas against Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe to block anti-voter provisions in HB 2332. The lawsuit, filed by the Voter Participation Center and VoteAmerica, two nonprofit charitable organizations focused on encouraging voters to vote by mail, seeks to block enforcement of a new law restricting the distribution of mail ballot applications to voters in the state.
Earlier this year, the Kansas Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto and passed HB 2332, an omnibus elections bill that prohibits out-of-state entities from mailing advance mail ballot applications to any voter in the state, in violation of the organizations’ ability to engage in voter engagement efforts that constitutes core political speech under the First Amendment. HB 2332 also criminalizes 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. Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Lathrop GPM LLP are representing the Voter Participation Center and VoteAmerica.
“HB 2332 is dangerous: it makes voting more difficult for Kansans by threatening their ability to vote-by-mail,” said Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Voter Participation Center (VPC). “In the 2020 election, we saw firsthand the urgency of vote-by-mail in the midst of the pandemic. That’s why we’re fighting back today to protect Kansans from this assault on our democracy and will keep working to ensure every American can make their voice heard.”
“Kansas’s new law is the latest in a nationwide trend by state legislatures moving to restrict the freedom to vote,” said Paul Smith, Vice President for Litigation and Strategy at the Campaign Legal Center. “Beyond just targeting voters, however, laws like HB 2332 specifically take aim at the ability of nonpartisan, public interest organizations to help people navigate confusing systems and encourage them to exercise their ability to vote by mail. HB 2332 is unconstitutional, and we hope the court will strike it down.”
“More Americans than ever voted by mail last year, which meant that even during a pandemic there was record high turnout, which is a sign of a healthy democracy,” said VoteAmerica Founder and CEO Debra Cleaver. “State legislators in Kansas and across the country apparently think more people exercising their right to vote is a bad thing and instead prefer lower turnout elections where they can better dictate who can and cannot vote. And now they want to want to block nonpartisan charitable organizations like VoteAmerica from simply helping voters – regardless of their political affiliation — request mail in ballots. It’s intentionally voter suppressive, it’s undemocratic, and that’s why we’re suing.”
The Voter Participation Center is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2003 to help members of the New American Majority register and vote. Since then, the organization has helped more than 5.7 million people register and cast ballots.