July 8, 2022

CONTACT: Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, 913-484-6270, [email protected] 

ATCHISON, KS – After the ACLU of Kansas intervened, Atchison County Clerk Michelle Phillips reversed her previous decision that ended voter registration for the August 2, 2022 election early on June 23.

Individuals who wish to vote in Atchison on August 2 can and should submit their registration before Tuesday, July 12, and the county clerk will accept it and process it.

“In this crucial and historic of an election, it would have been an egregious violation of these voters’ rights for an election official to prevent voters from registering up until the deadline as provided by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA),” said Sharon Brett, Legal Director for the ACLU of Kansas.

Previously, voters were denied the opportunity to register to vote in the August 2, 2022, primary election. Phillips had closed voter registration early in anticipation of the City of Atchison’s July 14 special election, effectively cutting off registration prematurely for the crucial constitutional amendment that is on the primary ballot this year. 

The ACLU of Kansas worked with the Secretary of State’s office to correct this error as part of the affiliate’s nonpartisan Election Protection Program.

Phillips’s office will now reach out to everyone who tried to register as a new voter and ask them to either return to register, if they had been turned away, or to inform them that their registration form will be processed. Registrations submitted through the DMV, DCF, and other state agencies between June 23 and today were, according to the Secretary of State, almost all change of address, which the County Clerk will process.  

The ACLU of Kansas intervened and threatened to bring litigation after learning of the early voter registration deadline and the fact that residents of Atchison were turned away nearly three weeks before the state registration deadline. The City of Atchison and County Clerk made no meaningful attempt to notify residents that the registration deadline was weeks earlier than the deadline for the rest of the county and state. At the City Commission hearing on July 5, multiple community members provided public comment regarding the problem that the special election created for voter registration in the City. Some were unable to register to vote because they recently moved to the City of Atchison, or had children who were unable to register to vote in the August 2 election because they turned 18 after June 23.

On Thursday, the ACLU of Kansas reminded Atchison County’s election official that the NVRA imposes strict rules on states with respect to voter registration, requiring that states permit registration for federal elections for up to thirty days prior to the election or up to the state voter registration deadline, whichever is closer in time to the election date. This requirement applies to primary elections for federal races. The NVRA provisions are triggered by a federal primary election for Kansas Congressional District 2 of the U.S. House of Representatives on the August 2nd ballot and therefore mandate that individuals in Kansas be permitted to register to vote in the primary until July 12, 2022.

If individuals have issues with voter registration or have trouble casting their ballot, they should report those issues to the ACLU of Kansas and our nonpartisan voter protection hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE. The ACLU of Kansas will be running the Election Protection program for the primary and general elections this year in conjunction with Loud Light and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.