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Kansas Republicans are pushing election concerns again, despite no evidence of widespread fraud

Kansas lawmakers have introduced several bills on mail-in ballots and advanced voting.
Sherman Smith
Kansas Reflector
Kansas lawmakers have introduced several bills on mail-in ballots and advanced voting.

In the few days since the 2024 Kansas legislative session started, bills governing mail-in ballots and advance voting applications have already been filed. There is still zero evidence that widespread election fraud happens at the state or national levels.

TOPEKA — Russian hackers, George Soros and the Chinese. In the few days since the 2024 Kansas legislative session started, debate about election security has already resumed and a heap of election bills are up for discussion.

Republican legislators are once again pushing concerns about advanced ballots, drop boxes and voter registration, despite zero evidence that widespread election fraud happens in the state or national levels.

During a Thursday meeting of the House Committee on Elections, Vice Chair Rep. Paul Waggoner, R-Hutchinson, said anyone with “any sensibility” would realize the issue is nonpartisan.

“If you have security flaws in your voter machine that are somehow exploitable, you don’t know if it’s going to be George Soros exploiting it or some Russian hacker or the Chinese or any other sort of ideological persuasion,” Waggoner said. “You have to realize that hacking is a fairly nondenominational profession.”

Breaking party lines, two other committee Republicans cautioned against one-sided hearings and claims of election hacking. Rep. Leah Howell, R-Derby, and Rep. Kenneth Collins, R-Mulberry, referenced September 2023 hearings held by the Special Committee on Elections.

“We have a pretty good system here,” Collins said. “The county people, they’re doing their best, and I don’t think there’s any widespread hacking or anything going on.”

During the September hearings, Chairman Republican Sen. Mike Thompson had outside groups testify about voter conspiracy theories to justify further extreme election regulations.

One group claimed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly reached a "secret agreement” to send voter registration forms to people who receive state services. The program informs people of opportunities to register to vote and stems from federal voting rights law.

The hearings sparked outrage from voter rights groups as well as a letter from Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who told committee members that Kansas elections continue to be safe and secure.

“All of us should take seriously the security and accuracy of our elections,” Howell said Thursday. “But I also think that we should be careful to be very discerning. … Some of the things that I noticed that they said could not be accurate and were not consistent.”

Some of the ideas talked about in September are reflected in newly introduced legislation. Thompson sponsored a bill about advance ballots Thursday in the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

Senate Bill 343 bans county election officials from sending out advance voting ballot applications to voters unless the application has already been requested by the voter.

Thompson, who chairs the committee, said the bill was needed because an election official in Johnson County had sent out many unrequested advance ballot applications. He said $75,000 worth of ballots had been printed in what was an “unnecessary expenditure.”

He also introduced a bill requiring more voter identity verification for advanced voting. The bill would require that a voter identity verification form be attached with advance ballots.

“We already have to give our DL number; not sure why more would be needed,” tweeted Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park. “Assuming under this bill we would have to sign mail ballots in our own blood.”

In the release of his 2024 legislative agenda, Schwab himself emphasized election security.

The secretary of state has worked to modernize and improve election laws with lawmakers ahead of the election cycle to “provide voters transparency, security, and accountability in the state’s election system,” the release read.

This story was originally published by Kansas Reflector.

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