February 6, 2023

Kansas legislators are going full speed on silencing your voice by constricting your voting rights.

On January 26, the House Elections Committee held a hearing on House Bill 2056, which would drastically—and needlessly—restrict mail-in voting.

Under current Kansas law, every mail-in ballot postmarked by Election Day is eligible to be counted. Our system currently has a 3-day collection period for those ballots to get through the postal system and arrived at the county election office.

HB 2056 would eliminate this collection period, dictating instead that voters try their luck with the postal system to have their ballots arrive by Election Day.

At the bill’s hearing, only one attendee testified in favor of the bill, while one other submitted written proponent testimony; by contrast, there were 25 people who shared testimony against this senseless change.

Despite this clear ratio of opposition, lawmakers are rushing ahead with this devastating bill, rocketing it out of committee toward a general House vote.

Their stated reasons highlight what it means for a group of powerful people to be deeply out of touch with the lives of everyday Kansans. Both their hastiness and their fervor to keep your voice out of the conversation should disturb all of us.

One claim is that voters will lose confidence in the system if votes are being counted after Election Day.

However, if I were a county election official, I’d much rather explain that ballots mailed by Election Day take a few days to arrive to be counted than explain that a person’s vote was thrown out entirely because of a postal process out of their control, even if they did everything right.

Another claim is that the current system is confusing because in-person voting ends on Election Day, whereas mail-in ballots are collected for three more days; the sole in-person proponent said that would create two deadlines for voters to remember. But it wouldn’t.

There’s only one deadline: vote at the polls or mail your ballot by Election Day. Simple. Were this bill to pass, there would suddenly be no deadline, just a shrug by the system. Voters would be left with no more than a wish and a prayer that their ballot arrives by Election Day.

Another fallacy out of the corner of the bill’s supporters is that because the 3-day period doesn’t guarantee a ballot will reach the election office in time, we should get rid of it.

Here’s my analogy for the 3-day period: my house is old, and with the recent polar vortex, it got cold inside. My insulation wasn’t sufficient to ensure I stayed warm. Seeing this, did I remove the insulation I had? 

Of course not. I added more because it serves an important purpose. The insulation needed to be made stronger, not thrown away entirely.

Do we get rid of seatbelts because they don’t guarantee maximum safety in every situation? Do we outlaw all medical procedures because some don’t work with perfect efficacy?

If the 3-day collection period doesn’t reasonably assure ballots get through the postal system in time, then we should be looking to extend the collection period (or for that matter, better support our postal service), not trash it.

The motives behind HB 2056 make little sense and of course, there are others with similar reasoning that would unreasonably limit voters from having their voices heard.

HB 2057 is an overreaching law that would restrict Kansas counties to provide only one ballot drop box each. Wrapped in the same irrational rhetoric, this only makes it harder for voters to vote. 

Similarly, HB 2053 further takes power away from our counties and gives it to the Secretary of State to needlessly limit voters’ ability to use ballot boxes, allowing a politician in Topeka to decide what’s best for your community.

Lawmakers are justifying voting restrictions by dangerously claiming Kansans have a “personal responsibility” to have their vote counted, wholly ignoring their own role and responsibility in enabling a functioning elections process. 

They almost seem to propose that eliminating the 3-day “grace period” would be a favor.

Voting is a right. If you follow the procedures and cast a ballot, your vote should be counted. Period. Votes cast on Election Day are meant to count; the 3-day window to collect those ballots isn’t a “grace period,” but a collection period. Election officials aren’t engaging in charity work for you—they’re ensuring that you are able to exercise your constitutional right to vote.

Kansans deserve to have their voice heard. Voting should be easy, safe, and accessible—not ridiculously made more difficult by politicians in Topeka. If you agree, please tell your lawmaker to oppose HB 2057, 2056, and 2053.  

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