Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has signed a new law that aims to make voting in the Sunflower State a little easier. Senate Bill 130 will give county election officials the discretion to allow all registered voters to cast their ballot at any polling place in their county on election day. Election officials will also be required to attempt to contact anyone who submitted an advanced ballot without a signature. The voter will be allowed to correct their signature before the commencement of the final tallying of votes in that county.
“This law is about local control and protecting every vote,” Kelly said. “I applaud all of the local and state officials who worked together to make this law a reality, especially those in Sedgwick County who were the driving force behind it.”
Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman and Sen. Oletha Faust Goudeau, D-Wichita, were the two policymakers that spearheaded the effort which was backed by others throughout the state.
Under the old system, voters who voted in the wrong place or failed to sign ballots only had their votes partially counted if they were counted at all. Those problems were exacerbated by efforts to move polling locations at the last minute, putting them in areas that fell outside of public transportation and required a significant drive to get to.
Dodge City, Kansas became emblematic of the problems with this policy after county officials decided to move the city’s single polling place to an area far outside of the center of town. The polling place was meant to serve all 13,000 residents of Dodge City, but required a significant drive to get to. The new law won’t fix all of Dodge City’s problems, but if the city can set up a second location, voters won’t be penalized for picking one of the two.
The state is also working on an app that will let users identify which polling locations have the shortest lines so that they can enter and exit quickly – a boon for those on tight schedules.
Making it easier to vote comes on the heels of a sustained voter suppression effort on the part of former Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. During his tenure, Kobach attempted to put several measures in place that removed voters from the voter roles or made it extraordinarily difficult to register and vote lawfully. Not all of those rules passed legal muster, but state lawmakers will have to continue to restore public faith in the voting system.
“Over the past decade, we have seen countless efforts aimed at making voting more difficult in this state,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I hope this will be the first of many laws that help ensure that every voice is heard in our democratic process and that every vote is counted.”