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OVERLAND PARK, KS - In a resounding rebuke to Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s office, a district court judge has ordered the disclosure of the full ballot report, absent social security numbers and driver’s license info, tossed from the 2018 August primary.
“This is a victory not just for our client but for all Kansas voters,” said Lauren Bonds, Legal Director for the ACLU of Kansas. “Now that we’ve secured the right to access this information, our client can start letting voters know if their votes counted in the last election and help Kansans who encounter similar problems in upcoming elections.”
The ACLU filed the lawsuit last month after a nearly 300-day delay and following multiple attempts to avoid litigation. The judge issued her ruling July 24.
The lawsuit, filed in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of the Topeka-based, voter advocacy nonprofit Loud Light and its founder/Executive Director Davis Hammet, sought the release of voter roll and provisional ballot information. In the past, courts have ruled that this information could be shared with the public.
“On September 4, 2019, Plaintiffs submitted a request to Defendant Schwab for the ELVIS Provisional Ballot Detail Report from the 2018 General Election,” the lawsuit reads. “Two hundred ninety-three (294) days later – and only in anticipation of this litigation -- Plaintiffs finally received a formal denial of their records request. But Defendant Schwab’s claims that the requested records are prohibited from release by law are without merit.”
Bonds said previously that the ACLU of Kansas had gone to great lengths to avoid this filing. The affiliate had sent a resolution letter to the Secretary of State’s office and had multiple phone calls with that team about the issue. Bonds said the affiliate also chose not to seek the recovery of legal fees in this case.
“Our only focus,” Bonds said, “is our client’s right to the documents they have requested.”
Loud Light specifically had requested the names of provisional ballot voters and whether their ballots ultimately were counted.
The ACLU of Kansas won a similar case on behalf of Mr. Hammett in January of 2019 when a District Court judge ordered then-Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker to honor a formal request for lists of voters who had cast provisional ballots in the 2018 primary.
Bonds said that decision and this decision were victories for democracy and transparency.
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.