Kansas defends against last-minute changes to election rules

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 12:31 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas is defending against last-minute changes to election rules.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Kansas has successfully backed efforts to prevent plaintiffs and courts from making last-minute changes to election rules through litigation.

“As the courts long have recognized, there comes a point where the election is so near that judicial injunctions or other actions that change the rules are fundamentally unfair and improperly disrupt an orderly election process,” Schmidt said. “This year has seen an unusual amount of litigation seeking changes in election rules in states around the country, and we will remain vigilant in efforts to ensure the integrity of the election process is not called into question by these last-minute lawsuits.”

According to Schmidt, Kansas has joined in filing briefs in five cases looking to prevent courts from ordering election changes that could disrupt the orderly conduct of the election. He said in four cases, appellate courts agreed with Kansas and blocked lower court orders that would have changed election rules. He said the four cases are as follows:

  • In Indiana, a federal district court enjoined Indiana’s election-day receipt deadline for absentee ballots and imposed a postmark deadline for all absentee ballots received by November 13, 10 days after the election. Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the lower court’s order, keeping the election-day receipt deadline in place. The case is Common Cause Indiana and Indiana State Conference of the NAACP v. Lawson.
  • In Alabama, a federal district court struck down the secretary of state’s prohibition on curbside voting, as well as witness and photo ID requirements for absentee ballots. Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit stayed the lower-court ruling on absentee ballots, but let stand the ruling that would permit curbside voting. Alabama intends to appeal the curbside matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the practice breaks the chain of custody of ballots and threatens election security. The case is People First of Alabama v. Merrill.
  • In Arizona, a federal district court enjoined the state’s law requiring absentee ballots to be signed and received by 7 p.m. on election day. The court also ordered Arizona to create and institute a new procedure that would grant voters who failed to sign their ballots up to five days after the election to correct the error. Finding Arizona was likely to prevail in the litigation on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last week issued a stay of the district court’s order. The case is Arizona Democratic Party v. Hobbs.
  • In Georgia, a federal district court had ordered the state to count absentee ballots that were postmarked and received within three days of the election, despite a state law requiring ballots to be received by 7 p.m. election day to be counted. Finding Georgia was likely to prevail in the litigation on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit last week stayed the lower-court decision. The case is The New Georgia Project v. Raffensperger.

Schmidt said another case remains pending. He said the case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling requiring the secretary of state to accept absentee ballots up to three days after the election, provided they were not postmarked after Nov. 3. He said that case, Scarnati v. Broockvar, has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

In addition, Schmidt also said on Oct. 7, his office successfully defended against a lawsuit looking to strike down the Kansas law which prohibits electioneering near polling places. He said in that case, Clark et al v. Schmidt et al, the federal district court in Topeka entered summary judgment in favor of Kansas.

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