Johnson County judge orders Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker to comply with request for list of provisional ballots

Jay Senter - February 1, 2019 7:05 am
Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker during the primary canvass in August 2018.

A Johnson County judge on Thursday sided with the progressive activist who sued Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker after Metsker refused to hand over a list of provisional ballot voters requested under the Kansas Open Records Act.

Davis Hammet, who heads Loud Light, an operation focused on increasing voter engagement and participation, was the plaintiff in the case filed in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas in September. Hammet and the ACLU took legal action after Metsker’s office denied a request to produce a list of voters whose ballots were rejected because their signatures did not match those the Election Office had on file. Hammet also requested a full list of local voters who cast provisional ballots in the August primary, where Sec. of State Kris Kobach narrowly defeated Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary.

Following the canvass, Hammet had filed a formal challenge to Kobach’s nomination in the gubernatorial race on the grounds that inconsistent treatment of provisional ballots from county to county could have impacted the outcome in so narrow a final tally.

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On Thursday, Johnson County District Court Judge David Hauber issued an order rejecting Metsker’s motion for summary judgment in his favor, granting Hammet’s motion for summary judgment in his favor, and directing Metsker to produce the requested records.

“[T]he Court concludes that defendant’s refusal to produce a list of names of provisional ballot voters violates KORA and is not subject to any cited exemption,” Hauber wrote.

In response to Hauber’s order, ACLU Legal Director and Interim Executive Director Lauren Bonds said the decision was “a win for democracy and transparency.”

“Voting rights advocates now have the information they need to ensure election integrity and help provisional voters make sure their ballots count,” she said. “People should know whether their vote counted or if people faced any unnecessary barriers to voting.”

Hauber’s full order is embedded below:

Download (PDF, 291KB)

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