FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2020
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
OVERLAND PARK, KS - The ACLU of Kansas has filed suit against the Kansas Secretary of State in federal court in pursuit of documents the court has twice ordered released to a Topeka-based voter advocacy organization.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, accuses Secretary of State Scott Schwab of again failing to release provisional ballot voter information. As recently as July of this year, the court ordered Schwab to provide Davis Hammet and his nonprofit organization Loud Light with the information it requested.
The lawsuit seeks the release of the public records, an order enjoining Schwab from any further interference, and an order for “such relief as this Court deems just and proper.”
During the past three years, Hammet has sought provisional ballot voter information to help voters cure defects in their ballot and avoid having to cast provisional ballots in future elections. The Secretary of State now says, after altering the computer system, that he lacks the capacity to extract the requested information. The Secretary of State also has urged county clerks to delay responding to similar requests, according to the suit.
"The Secretary of State's fixation on withholding provisional ballot voter information from the public is baffling,” said ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Lauren Bonds. “He has fought to block our client from accessing this information for over year, doing everything from forcing him to get a court order to instructing county clerks to delay responding to his requests. It's disappointing to see an elected official work so hard to frustrate access to records the courts have repeatedly found are open to the public."
Hammet and Loud Light use this information to conduct election research, inform the public, and to advise local and state officials on how current policies and laws affect voters.
Yet with each request, the “Defendant responded with a series of shifting justifications for why the records could not be disclosed, delaying an official denial of Mr. Hammet’s KORA request for nearly 300 days,” according to the lawsuit.
Schwab complied with the July order but a month later, the lawsuit said, instituted software changes that purportedly made it difficult or impossible to produce future provisional ballot detail reports.
Schwab then told Hammet that going forward, the only way Hammet could acquire public records about provisional ballot voters is if he paid $522 to have the software code rewritten after the 2020 General Election.
“Through these actions, Defendant Schwab intentionally frustrated Mr. Hammet’s access to records that this Court held he was entitled to receive,” the lawsuit said. “Moreover, in addition to destroying software functionality that had existed for at least a decade, Defendant Schwab directed county election officials to delay providing 2020 General Election provisional ballot detail reports to Mr. Hammet and other requesters.”
Despite knowing that the reports are records of high public interest with news media, election integrity researchers and political parties, Schwab has “taken no steps to make the records accessible,” the lawsuit said.
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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.