Capitol Update: Sen. Ethan Corson says two election-related bills will suppress votes

Democratic state Sen. Ethan Corson, of Kansas' 7th Senate District.

Long before I ran for office, I fought for voting rights as an attorney and organizer. That’s why I was so disappointed the Kansas Legislature passed two bills, Senate Sub. for HB 2183 and HB 2332, that will make it harder for Kansans to vote

Even more disappointing was the Chair of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee’s bizarre and nonsensical rationale for why Kansas needs these bills.

The Chair stated that “we’ve always heard that some guy found a box of ballots here in the janitor’s closet.” But when pressed for details, the Chair admitted, “I don’t have any details. We have heard of it happening, we don’t know if it happened in Kansas.”

For those not conversant in Republican Senate-speak, “we’ve heard,” means, “I saw it on Fox News.” It’s a strange way to make statewide public policy, but false and fear-mongering cable news segments inspire much of the legislation we consider.

Later in the hearing, the Chair offered, “We’ve heard a lot of things. And again, Kansas was not a problem according to what the Secretary of State’s office has said. We ran a really good ship.” 

I pushed back against this conspiracy-mongering both in the Committee and on the Senate floor

The fact is that Kansas did “r[u]n a really good ship” in 2020, and it’s something we should be proud of.

As Connie Schmidt, Johnson County’s former election commissioner wrote, “In the presidential election of 2020 — with the pandemic changing voter trends daily and election administrators racing to fill the cracks in our solid foundation and keep the process moving forward seamlessly — Kansas was a shining example of how to do it right.” 

Secretary of State Scott Schwab has stated that “Kansas is not experiencing any issues with voter fraud.”

Further, because these bills were hastily drafted without the input of county election officials, not only will they suppress votes, but some provisions duplicate existing law, while others are likely to land us in court for the kind of taxpayer-funded litigation that was all too common during the Kris Kobach era.

The most onerous provision of Senate Sub. for HB 2183 is one that makes it a misdemeanor for a person to deliver more than 10 advance ballots on behalf of other voters. This change is opposed by the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, nuns and the Kansas State NAACP, because many members of those communities need assistance returning completed ballots.

HB 2332 would, among other problematic provisions, prohibit the governor, judiciary, or Secretary of State from modifying election laws, a possible violation of the constitutional separation of powers. 

I hope Gov. Kelly vetoes these bills and that the Senate will focus on improving people’s lives by working on issues like fully-funding public education and making sure every Kansan has access to quality, affordable healthcare.

And if we’re going to indulge in conspiracy theories, let’s at least pick more interesting ones, like “Where are Biggie and Tupac?”