Citizen participation is crucial to our democracy.
While the right to vote should be guaranteed to all eligible Americans, this fundamental constitutional right is constantly under attack. In the past decade, numerous states, often led by Kansas, have attempted or successfully passed legislation limiting the right to vote. These efforts have included new identification and documentation requirements, cuts to early voting, and purges of voter rolls. Each of these attacks on voting rights disproportionately hurts people of color, students, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
The more recent wave of attacks on voting rights have been enabled by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, where the justices struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling prevented the federal government from providing meaningful oversight to state and local governments wanting to change their voting laws. Citing “progress” in the states, the Court opened the door for the creation of new restrictions on voting.
Kansas is at the epicenter of this movement to undermine the right to vote, and many eligible Kansas voters face unnecessary hurdles or are unable to access the ballot box. We saw this most recently in the 2021 legislative session, when Kansas lawmakers pushed through two bills, one that aimed to significantly hamper mail ballot access and another that aimed to undermine the lawful power of the executive and judicial branches to alter election laws.
What are we doing about it?
The ACLU of Kansas has led the charge against egregious, illegal, and undemocratic attacks on the right to vote. We have brought multiple lawsuits against the Secretary of State. In one suit, we won a state court judgment that former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s “dual voter roll,” which prevented some eligible voters from voting in state and local elections, was illegal and outside of his authority. In another suit, Fish v. Kobach, we successfully challenged one of the state’s documentation requirements as illegal under federal law and won the case at the District Court and at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s motion for cert in 2020, thereby holding in place the lower court’s ruling that the Documentary Proof of Citizenship law was illegal. We have also pushed – repeatedly – for the office of the Kansas Secretary of State to properly fulfill its duty to produce documents under the Kansas Open Records Act so that civic engagement organizations are able to do their work to strengthen democracy. One of these cases, Loud Light & Hammet v. Schwab, is ongoing.
The ACLU of Kansas is leading the way in this state in not only defending the right to vote, but expanding voters’ rightful access to participate in democracy. We continue to find ways to work with allies to boost voter turnout and civic engagement in Kansas. Read more about our Let Kansas Vote! campaign.