OVERLAND PARK, KS - The ACLU of Kansas is deeply troubled by Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden’s recent proposals to have sheriff’s office staff intrude on the county elections office’s ballot counting and pick-up processes.
State law gives county election officials full authority for the administration of elections. It does not provide any specific role for sheriffs’ offices, much less the role outlined by Sheriff Hayden. A number of Sheriff Hayden’s proposals are deeply concerning and, if implemented, would intimidate voters, further decrease the accessibility and availability of voting options, and needlessly infringe upon the authority of the Johnson County election official, in violation of state law. Further, some of Sheriff Hayden’s demands would result in violations of state law. For example, law enforcement officers at polling locations is a form of voter intimidation, which is prohibited by state law.
Both Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman and Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab have repeatedly emphasized the security and integrity of our election processes. Sheriff Hayden himself has admitted his lack of expertise in the subject area. However, Sheriff Hayden continues to engage in conduct that borders on intimidation of election officials, and his comments undermine confidence in Kansas elections. His pursuit of a criminal investigation no one but himself seems to have asked for is cause for great concern, especially when it is accompanied by proposals that could violate state law and intimidate voters.
As election administrators across the country have faced increased harassment and threats of violence, law enforcement should be more concerned with defending against attacks against government workers, rather than actively contributing to a culture that promotes such potentially subversive and violent conduct or that undermines the very institutions undergirding our democracy and government. Sheriff Hayden should leave the fair, secure administration of elections to those who are trained, prepared, and committed to doing so.
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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.