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Gov. Kelly vetoes voter suppression bills

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 1:50 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed divisive voter suppression bills to keep Kansas welcoming and open for business.

Governor Laura Kelly says she has demonstrated her commitment to ensure that Kansas is welcoming to everyone and open for business. She said she vetoed House Bill 2183 and House Bill 2332.

“Although Kansans have cast millions of ballots over the last decade, there remains no evidence of significant voter fraud in Kansas. This bill is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is designed to disenfranchise Kansans, making it difficult for them to participate in the democratic process, not to stop voter fraud,” said Gov. Kelly. “We also know what happens when states enact restrictive voting legislation. Hundreds of major companies across the nation have made it abundantly clear that this kind of legislation is wrong. Antagonizing the very businesses Kansas is trying to recruit is not how we continue to grow our economy.”

The Kansas Democratic Party said the veto was the right move because if the restrictions had been in place during the 2020 election, tens of thousands of ballots would have been thrown out.

“Kansas’ 2020 elections were among the safest and most secure we’ve had thus far, and HB 2183 and HB 2332 add no new protections while making election administration more difficult,” said KDP Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt. “If these restrictions had been in place during the 2020 elections, more than tens of thousands of ballots from eligible Kansas citizens would have been thrown out. These bills would make advance voting more confusing, less accessible and less reliable for voters while criminalizing normal and healthy parts of our democracy. Thanks to Governor Laura Kelly, these voter suppression bills will not come to fruition.”

“I applaud the Governor’s decision to veto S Sub for HB 2183 and HB 2332. These election bills are designed to disproportionately harm elderly Kansans, college students, and members of the military trying to exercise their right to vote. Furthermore, they continue a dangerous trend of taking away powers from other elected officials,” said House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer. “The Governor and Secretary of State deserve the authority entrusted to them by the voters to appropriately respond to emergencies, including when it comes to elections. Removing that power – as these measures do – politicizes the process even further, which hurts all Kansans.”

Gov. Kelly said she also vetoed House Bill 2058. She said while she believes in the second amendment, she also believes there are more effective steps to keep Kansans safe.

“Throughout my time in public office, I have been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and of Kansans’ right to own firearms,” said Gov. Kelly. “But we can respect and defend the rights of Kansas gun owners while also taking effective steps to keep our children and families safe. Legislation that allows more guns on campus is neither safe nor effective, and it will drive prospective students away from our schools.”

Attorney General Derek Schmidt called the bill reasonable and needed and said the veto is disappointing.

“The governor’s veto of this reasonable and needed 2nd Amendment legislation is deeply disappointing. The bill strengthens our ability to obtain reciprocity in licensing with other states. It also fixes the roadblock in the permitting process discovered when the governor ordered driver’s license offices closed during the pandemic, making it impossible for new applicants to obtain permits,” said AG Schmidt. “And it promotes firearms safety by encouraging 18- to 20-year-olds, who lawfully may carry openly under current law, to obtain training and a permit to carry concealed. I hope the Legislature will override this ill-advised veto when it returns in May.”

Kansas Democrats praised the move as the state sees an increase in domestic violence.

“HB 2058 would allow felons, abusers, and stalkers who move from states with more lenient laws to carry weapons which they are statistically more likely to use to harm and kill their partners and victims,” said House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer. “According to Kansas law enforcement, there has been a significant increase in domestic violence since the beginning of the pandemic. I stand in support of the Governor’s decision to veto this bill, which will ensure that our state does not allow those situations to become even more dangerous than they already are.”

Lastly, Gov. Kelly said she vetoed House Bill 2166. She said she will do everything in her power to make sure that Kansas stays welcoming and inclusive.

“As long as I’m governor, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Kansas remains welcoming and inclusive. The Gadsden flag has become, over time, a symbol of racism and divisiveness. By inserting the Gadsden provision into an otherwise positive piece of legislation, the Legislature ensured a veto,” said Gov. Kelly. “The Legislature can easily pass and send me the original bill. If they do, I will sign it.”

The Kansas Democratic Party praised Gov. Kelly’s decision and said the state cannot afford to go down the road of voter suppression again.

“Following the 2020 election, election officials across the state were unequivocal in their confidence in the election results and process. In response to the system working, Kansas Republicans decided they ought to make it harder for Kansans to vote. Our state already has a long, costly, and embarrassing history with voter suppression efforts, and Governor Kelly’s veto is a clear message that we should not go down that road again,” said Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes. “Our state also has a longer history of standing up for what is moral and right, which is why I’m glad the Governor also vetoed HB 2166. Taxpayers from the Free State should not be subsidizing divisive iconography that glorifies a man who advocated for and profited from the slave trade. The Gadsden flag is antithetical to our founding principles, and it has no place on official Kansas plates.”

“I support the Governor’s decision to veto HB 2166. I disagree with providing the option of the Gadsden flag for car license plates. This sort of glorification of Christopher Gadsden, a notorious slave merchant whose Gadsden’s Wharf is estimated to have sold more Africans into slavery than any other location in North America,” said House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer. “This is a stain on our country’s history. Kansas was brought into this country as a free state. By allowing for this sort of glorification of the horrors of slavery, we risk desecrating the image of Kansas and painting ourselves as a state rooted in some of the most morally impure acts of human degradation.”

Kansas Republicans called the vetoes an overstep and promised to return in May with a “veto-override-a-rama.”

“It’s disappointing that the governor has decided to use her veto pen to placate the hard left rather than support mainstream policies supported by most Kansans,” said Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson. “She vetoed modest tax relief for middle-class families and businesses who employ thousands. She rejected protecting fairness in women’s sports. She vetoed bills to prevent tampering with our elections and limit ballot harvesting. She vetoed 2nd Amendment rights and offering proven gun safety programs in our schools. She even vetoed legislation ensuring high school students take financial literacy classes and can pass a basic civics test. Finally, she decided to reject a bill allowing additional customized license plates. Each of these common-sense measures were passed by strong majorities. Republicans will respond to the governor’s veto-a-rama with a veto-override-a-rama when we return in May.”

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