Kansas Supreme Court Finds No Explicit Right to Vote in State Constitution

(IntegrityTimes.com) – While the U.S. constitution underpins life in the United States overall, many are unaware of how their day to day lives are affected their state’s constitution as well. On Friday May 31, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a mixed ruling combining several challenges to a 2021 election law with one major surprise.

The majority ruled that the right to vote isn’t enshrined in the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights. In referring to the fundamental right to vote, Justice Caleb Stegall wrote that it “simply is not there”. Three of the court’s seven justices strongly dissented with the majority opinion on that matter.

While the ruling dealt with several issues with the 2021 election law, the voting rights question addressed the ballot signature-verification measure part of it. This measure requires that election officials match the signatures on the advance mail ballots to the individual voter’s registration record.

Justice Melissa Taylor Standridge denounced the ruling as “just plain wrong” and said it could have far-reaching implications. Justice Dan Biles argued that a citizen’s right to vote is protected by the Kansas state constitution. He further added that if the signature rule goes forth it must be used reliably and uniformly throughout the state.

The court was unanimous in another area of the ruling, however. The provision that makes it illegal for someone to give the false appearance of being an election official was found lacking by the Kansas Supreme Court. Justice Stegall pointed out that the provision didn’t include any requirement to show intent to deceive. A lower court had earlier ruled that impersonating an election official does not constitute protected free speech. Stegall disagreed with this characterization, saying that without proof of intentional misrepresentation the law “sweeps up protected speech” in its net.

Although the lower court already rejected an injunction against the false impersonation law, the lawsuit over its constitutionality is likely to succeed. The Kansas Supreme Court is now urging the Shawnee county district court to reconsider granting the injunction. Voting rights groups say they have had to limit their assistance of voters for three years due to the false impersonation law. Martha Pint of the Kansas League of Women Voters calls the signature verification law “ambiguous and threatening”. State Attorney General Kris Kobach and Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab released a statement in support of the court’s ruling on the signature verification law and a provision that limits ballot harvesting.

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