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Category: Kansas (page 1 of 2)

Court Closes the Open Records Policy for Elected Officials: Personnel Records Exception under the Kansas Open Records Act

By: Emma Dolgos

In the information age, voters both want and expect access to information about candidates running for public office. The press plays a large role in disseminating such information, but only if they can get access to it.

The Kansas state legislature seemed to agree that the press needs information when they passed the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). KORA not only stipulates that public records are to remain open for inspection “by any person,” but it also asserts that the act will be “liberally construed and applied” to advance the state’s policy. However, the statute includes a notable exception for personnel records. Section 45-221(a)(4) states that a public agency does not need to disclose “[p]ersonnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment” (emphasis added) other than names, positions, salary, or actual compensation contracts.

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A Bad Year for Kansas’s Kobach and Newby

By: Norma Volkmer

It has not been a good year for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Johnson County, Kansas Election Commissioner Brian Newby. Newby is currently the executive director of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, where in January he approved Kobach’s plan to alter the federal voter registration form to require proof of citizenship.

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Kansas 0-3 in Voter ID Lawsuits

By: Norma Volkmer

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, narrowly avoided contempt charges in September 2016 which would have been the cherry on top for those in opposition to Kansas’s proof-of-citizenship requirement. The requirement, which requires anyone registering to vote in Kansas provide proof of citizenship via one of thirteen documents, was enacted under the Secure and Fair Elections Act of 2011, and was enforced beginning in 2013.

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KS: Lack of Election Post-Audit Leaves Uncertainty in the Sunflower State

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Does anyone really watch the watchman? In Kansas, the state’s lack of an election post-audit is raising some questions, and a university professor wants to run the numbers on electronic voting machines in and around the state’s largest city.

Like other states across the Union, Kansas began using electronic voting machines following the presidential election of 2000 and the infamous “hanging chad” debacle in Florida. While many Kansas counties use optical scan paper ballots, the two most populous counties in the state, Sedgwick County (home of the state’s largest city, Wichita) and Johnson County (home of some of the most affluent Kansas City suburbs) use electronic voting machines. And while the machines in Sedgwick County print an extensive paper receipt, the machines used in Johnson County do not leave a paper trail.

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In Kansas, 90 Days to Prove Citizenship

Is 90 days enough time to comply with proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements? In Kansas, at least 31,000 presumably qualified electors who have attempted to complete applications to register to vote will see their applications deleted under new administrative regulations in the state. Most of these applicants failed to submit proof of their U.S. citizenship, to a county election official satisfactory which is required by the 2011 Kansas Safe and Fair Elections Act (“S.A.F.E. Act”). Such suspended voters are generally unable to cast ballots in local, state, or federal elections; however, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., under the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”), any Kansan who applies to register to vote using the federal voter registration form is allowed to vote in federal elections, even if he or she does not include proof-of-citizenship. In order to be removed from the list of suspended voters and be added to the state’s voter rolls, applicants must provide proof-of-citizenship to their local county election official. Under the previous system, county election officials worked feverishly to contact all applicants on the suspended list repeatedly in order to help them complete the proof-of-citizenship requirement. Some argue these unending attempts to encourage applicants to comply with registration requirements were too onerous.

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Kansas’ Secretary of State: Protecting Voter Privacy, or Politics as Usual?

by Katherine Paige

A U.S. District Court ruling handed down Wednesday in Kansas granted disclosure of the names of provisional ballot voters to candidates in a tightly contested state house race, thereby clarifying the scope of voter privacy protection under federal law.

The ruling was issued in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prevent disclosure of the names.

Kobach argued that federal election law protects voters’ identities from disclosure, citing § 302(a) of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA): “Access to information about an individual provisional ballot shall be restricted to the individual who cast the ballot.” U.S. District Court Judge Marten rejected Kobach’s argument, reading the plain text of the statute to protect only disclosure of how someone voted, not the identity of the voter. Continue reading

There’s No Place Like Kansas: Redistricting School Science Standards

by Katherine Paige

Tornado season may be over, but the run up to the 2012 election kicked up a quite a storm in Kansas.

From an investigation into President Obama’s citizenship launched by the Secretary of State in response to a petition challenging the President’s place on the election ballot, to a federal appellate court ruling upholding the state’s system of tracking party affiliation, the months leading up to the general election were wrought with political and legal controversy. Incidentally, November was the first major election since the state’s enactment of a controversial voter identification law in 2011. Despite these challenges, it is the new state districting maps, released in June by a three-judge federal court panel, that will likely prove to be the biggest game changer for some this election. Continue reading

Sending out an SOS: The National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) held its annual summer conference in Daniels, WV from July 10-13 this past summer. Much of the conference was geared toward preparation for the 2012 Election cycle. A number of prominent speakers, including a number of state secretaries of state, “federal officials, private sector representatives, voter advocacy organizations and leading academics” voiced their views.

Sec. Kris Kobach, the controversial Secretary of State of Kansas who has become a lightning rod of criticism and praise over the past summer for his efforts in leading the charge against alleged voter fraud (see a 2009 Times profile about then-candidate Kobach here), discussed his state’s Secure and Fair Elections Act as part of his presentation on citizenship requirements for voter registration. He noted that his state’s law was drafted to “withstand judicial scrutiny” taking into account challenges to a similar law passed in Arizona (which Kobach also had a hand in drafting). Secretary Kobach defended laws like this, saying “we all want security in the knowledge that an election was fair… [a]nd that the winner of the election was the person who really won the race”.

Host Secretary Nathalie Tennant also spoke about elections, focusing on the use of technology in communicating with voters. She stressed the importance of using social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype to make sure voters know valuable information about upcoming elections. The use of such media might help to increase voter participation, she reasoned, as they are the “type of tools people are using to communicate.” Tennant’s office  recently launched a campaign to educate and inform voters of West Virginia’s upcoming special election for Governor and the necessary steps to register and vote. The media campaign coincides with the beginning of the NCAA football season and compares the two activities (voting and football, that is), calling both “American traditions.” Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Vote Early, Vote Often (Even if You’re Dead): An 81-year-old Oregon man was sentenced to 12 months in jail and a $5,000 fine for voting as both his deceased brother and son.

SAFE Voting in Kansas: Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach unveiled the Safe and Fair Elections (SAFE) bill January 18 that would require voters to show ID at the polls and proof of registration when registering for the first time.

Provision Ballot Chaos in Ohio: In a case that may end up in front of the Supreme Court, a U.S. District Court and the Ohio Supreme Court issued conflicting rulings on some provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct in the November elections.

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– Another week, another challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Shelby County in Alabama is seeking an injunction against Attorney General Holder to prevent him from enforcing Section 5 of the VRA. Section 5 requires that certain states and municipalities “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Attorney General. Last week, Merced County in California initiated a similar challenge to the Act.

– In Kansas, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to protect the voting rights of the mentally ill.  Currently, the state constitution allows legislators to deny voting rights to the mentally ill, though the legislature has not attempted to pass any laws limiting those rights.  This amendment would eliminate the possibility of such restrictions entirely.  The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot next statewide election, on November 2nd.

– Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has written this editorial linking Arizona’s “Clean Election” reforms with that state’s new controversial immigration law.

– In New York, Assemblyman Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill that would create a non-partisan redistricting commission in that state.

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