ACLU of Kansas intervenes on behalf of voters in multiple counties ahead of primary election


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by Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector
July 28, 2022

TOPEKA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has helped resolve election-related concerns in counties around the state in advance of next week’s primary.

The organization runs a nonpartisan “election protection” hotline to ensure safe and accessible voting, and it will deploy trained poll observers next week.

“We’ve intervened in four or five different matters at this point to ensure people have access to voting or that electioneering isn’t happening,” said Sharon Brett, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas. “And so it sort of shows the value of this program, and I know it will get even busier as we get closer to Election Day.”

Concerns about ballot access have been heightened by interest in the constitutional amendment on abortion, the first public vote on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The ACLU of Kansas has intervened twice in Atchison County.

Michelle Phillips, the Atchison County clerk, initially ended voter registration for the Aug. 2 primary on June 23, because of an upcoming special election in the city of Atchison. After the ACLU notified Phillips that she was violating federal law, and eligible voters had until July 12 to register, Phillips agreed to reach out to every new voter her office had turned away and let them know they could register and participate in the primary.

Phillips also created concerns by placing a sticker on advanced mail ballots that asked voters to check a box declaring they have not delivered more than 10 ballots on behalf of other persons, a reference to a new state law aimed at discouraging volunteers who help people get their ballots to drop boxes or election offices.

“We had concerns about how the election office would handle ballots returned without that box checked,” said Esmie Tseng, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Kansas. “They have since confirmed that ballots will be counted regardless of whether this box has been checked.”

In Reno County, the election office was training poll workers to allow voters to wear clothing with the logos of campaigns for or against the constitutional amendment on abortion because the logos may not explicitly say “vote yes” or “vote no.” The instruction raised concerns because the campaigns are clearly associated with a position on the amendment, which amounts to electioneering.

After a conversation with Brett, the Reno County attorney agreed to instruct poll workers to require any voters wearing logos for campaigns on the amendment to remove the language or vote curbside.

The ACLU of Kansas intervened in Ellis County to ensure individuals who had completed probation or parole were allowed to register to vote, in compliance with state law. They had attempted to register to vote but were denied.

The ACLU of Kansas election protection hotline is available at 866-687-8683 for English and 888-839-8682 for Spanish.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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