FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2023
Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, ACLU of Kansas, [email protected]
Melissa Stiehler, Advocacy Director, Loud Light, [email protected]
Lucas Behrens, Community Organizer, MORE2, [email protected]
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - In response to mounting concerns from everyday Kansans over politicians’ attacks on democracy, a number of organizations are launching a renewed campaign to defend the right to vote, starting in the state’s most diverse county.
The ACLU of Kansas, El Centro, the League of Women Voters Topeka-Shawnee County, the League of Women Voters Wichita-Metro, Loud Light, and MORE2 will combine efforts to empower Kansas voters to increase access in their local communities. The first event will take place in Wyandotte County at the main library on Saturday, April 22, with other events over the next several weeks in Shawnee, Johnson, Ellis, and Sedgwick Counties.
“We’re using a grassroots-based approach to center the power of local community members to hold their elected officials accountable,” said Leslie Butsch, Field Director of the ACLU of Kansas. “Kansas voters know what their needs are, and we’re at a new moment for this work in the state, with several critical organizations uniting to ensure Kansans can hold their elected officials accountable to honor the fundamental right to vote.”
“During a time of unfounded election conspiracies being centered in the statehouse, focusing on protecting and expanding Kansans’ access to the vote on the local level is crucial,” said Logan Byrd, Organizer for Loud Light. “Young people and people of color are the first to see the impact of voter suppression; we will continue to be the ones leading the fight to protect the fundamental right to vote.”
Over the extended campaign, participating Kansans will work to develop and present a research-based policy menu calling on their respective officials to implement improvements based on their county’s unique needs:
- Expanding early voting hours, locations, and/or days
- Increasing curbside voting
- Increasing the number of polling locations in diverse jurisdictions
- Improving language access
- Implementing “vote from jail” programs
- Offering pre-paid postage for mail-in ballots.
Between working, caring for families, and other responsibilities, local election officials in Kansas have the authority under state election law to maximize opportunities to protect the right to vote and maximize turnout – yet many don't. For example, Kansas law allows early in-person voting to begin 20 days before Election Day, but local elections officials decide to a widely varying degree how much to take advantage of that. Communities with only one early voting location may require some voters to travel considerable distance to vote early, undermining the convenience of early voting in the first place. Thus, an individual’s access to vote in Kansas depends largely on their zip code and county. Similarly, while more polling locations may have increased access to this service during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is significant room for improvement to ensure curbside voting at all voting locations.
Research in January 2023 found a majority of Kansas voters (70%) across the political spectrum agree that elected officials should make it easier to vote in Kansas, not harder. Compared to the support that nearly every currently elected official garnered to win their election, democracy is far more popular among Kansans than Kansas politicians. Even after receiving multiple arguments about voter fraud and election security, respondents remained supportive of expanding access to vote. Thus, while voters have concerns for election security, they find expanding access to the poll either more important or not in conflict with those concerns. Voters show similar levels of support for the campaign’s proposed policy changes: 80% of Kansans support increasing the number of polling numbers across the state, and 78% support ensuring curbside voting at all voting locations, and 65% of Kansas voters support requiring Kansas counties to allow in-person voting for the full 20-day voting period before Election Day statewide.
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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.
El Centro, Inc. is a Kansas City, Kansas- and Olathe, Kansas-based not-for-profit corporation focused on strengthening communities and improving lives of Latinos and others through educational, social, and economic opportunities. For more information, visit www.elcentroinc.com.
The League of Women Voters is a political grassroots network and membership organization that believes the freedom to vote is a nonpartisan issue. For more than a century, we’ve worked to empower voters and defend democracy. As a women-led organization, we encourage everyone to take part in our democracy. For more information, visit www.lwv.org.
Loud Light engages, educates, and empowers individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power that has an impact on decision makers through voter registration, informative videos, coalition building, civic engagement, youth voter turnout. For more information, visit www.loudlight.org.
MORE2 was created in 2004 as a social justice organization representing different faith traditions, cultural backgrounds, races, and economic means. The organization included twelve congregations and has now grown to thirty-two congregations and many individual members. We are united in our commitment to transforming our communities, building a Kansas City area that embraces all people and offers everyone the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential. For more information, visit www.more2.org.