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Civic Groups Respond to Kansas Supreme Court Ruling on Controversial Voting Laws

Press Release / Last Updated:

TOPEKA, KS — Today, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a decision in LWV Kansas v. Schwab, a case brought by the League of Women Voters of Kansas (LWV Kansas), Loud Light, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, challenging restrictive voting laws enacted by the Kansas Legislature in 2021.

The court issued rulings on three provisions outlined in the law:

  1. Representation of voter assistance
    The 2021 law made it a crime to “give the appearance of being an election official,” severely limiting civic groups’ ability to register and assist Kansas voters. Justice Stegall’s opinion directed the lower district court to reconsider plaintiffs’ claims against this provision, indicating that the plaintiffs have demonstrated the ability to enjoin this provision of the law.
  2. Signature verification requirement for absentee ballots
    The new law also added new signature requirements for absentee ballots, which have proven in other states to be unreliable and burdensome for voters. The court remanded this decision as well, giving additional standards for the district court to apply towards the signature verification requirements.
  3. Advance (absentee) ballot delivery limitations
    The 2021 law placed a new restriction on how many advance ballots a person could return on behalf of voters, limiting the number to 10. Many Kansans rely upon assistance from civic groups like the plaintiffs to deliver their ballots due to disability or illness. Today’s ruling allows this provision to stand.

“Today’s decision confirms that the 2021 law’s ‘false representation’ provision is likely unconstitutional,” said Martha Pint, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “For three years now, Kansas League of Women Voters volunteers have been forced to severely limit their assistance of voters due to this ambiguous and threatening law. The League’s critical voter assistance work is not a crime, and we are confident this provision will be quickly blocked when the case returns to the district court. We also welcome the high court's decision to reverse the district court’s dismissal of our challenge to the signature verification provisions. We look forward to making our case with respect to that provision in the district court. Unfortunately, today’s decision did not provide the relief we were looking for on the ballot collection provision. Let’s be clear: this law is meant to target the rights of Kansans to make their voices heard. The League will continue to empower and aid Kansas voters in whatever way we can.”

"We are glad the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled the 2021 voter suppression law overly broad in how it criminalized our free speech right to register voters,” said Davis Hammet, president at Loud Light.  “Our team looks forward to a speedy resolution allowing us to resume the critical work of registering the next generation of Kansans to vote. We are working with our legal team to analyze the next steps regarding signature matching requirements and ballot assistance restrictions in the case where the Court was split 4-3 in their decision.”

“While Kansas Appleseed is pleased the Court recognized the unconstitutionality of the election impersonation statute and we look forward to proving that the signature matching provision violates the equal protection clause at the trial court, we are disappointed that the majority did not find the fundamental protections outlined in the dissent,” said Teresa Woody, litigation director at Kansas Appleseed.

“Signature matching requirements unfairly disadvantage people whose signatures may be impacted by muscular weakness or spasms, low or declining vision, or the aging process. In other words: people who are disabled or aging. We are pleased the Court’s holding will give disabled and aging voters an opportunity to present their concerns for meaningful consideration,” said Ami Hyten, JD, director at the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center.

Read the opinion here.

Read an overview of the case

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