Kansas House, Senate pass bills on ballot boxes, three-day grace period for advance ballots | Allison Kite and Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector

Election legislation meant to shore up public trust and transparency passed out of the Kansas House and Senate Thursday, despite concerns that the bills would have a chilling effect on voters. House and Senate lawmakers passed bills ending the three-day grace period for advance ballot collection 77-45, following Wednesday’s debate on the ethics of limiting the window. The vote marks a shift from 2017, when the House voted to create the three-day grace period for ballots with 123 voting in favor of the legislation. Senators voted 23-17 Thursday to do the same. Republican proponents of the bill have said the measure will restore state residents’ trust in the electoral process, though some of the bill’s critics have said proponents are the ones undermining the electoral system in the first place. Rep. Stephanie Sawyer Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat, said the current system should be kept. “We believe that the best way to maintain trust in our election systems is by working under the current constructs as opposed to undermining democracy itself through inflammatory rhetoric,” Sawyer Clayton said. Under the House bill, all advance ballots need to be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, eliminating the window currently in place. The restriction would apply to advance voting ballots received by mail, in the office of the county election officer, the satellite election office, any polling place or a county-maintained election drop box.

Full Article: Kansas House, Senate pass bills on ballot boxes, three-day grace period for advance ballots – Kansas Reflector

Kansas: Will election conspiracy theories cause permanent damage to democracy? | Katie Bernard/The Kansas City Star

In early September, Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden spoke with a group of Johnson County conservatives known as the “Liberty People” about his efforts to investigate voter fraud. It was a free-wheeling discussion that included calls for the elimination of all voting machines, unfounded insinuations that undocumented immigrants are voting, and promises that the sheriff was closing in on one of the biggest investigations of his career — despite no evidence of widespread fraud in Kansas’ most populous county. An hour in, an older woman piped up with an apparent call for action. “Now that I’m older, I’m not afraid to go to jail,” she said to Johnson County’s top law enforcement officer. Hayden chuckled and reminded her he’s bound by the constitution. “We are not,” the woman responded. The episode, posted to right-wing video sharing site Rumble, highlighted a phenomenon that has grown over the past two years in Kansas and the country as a whole. A growing collection of citizens no longer trust the outcomes of elections and promote claims of massive fraud without any basis or proof. Though exaggerated claims of voter fraud are not new to the Sunflower State, former President Donald Trump’s continued refusal to accept his 2020 defeat helped set a fire in Kansas that continues to spread ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm election.

Source: Does election denialism threaten democracy in Kansas? | The Kansas City Star

Kansas election conspiracy theorists seek 2020 redo, ban on electronic voting machines in 2022 | Ti Carpenter/Kansas Reflector

The Kansas secretary of state said plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit alleging election fraud in 2020 and 2022 were manipulated by conspiracy fearmongers dedicated to undermining public confidence in the security and accuracy of voting in Kansas. Six individuals filed suit against Secretary of State Scott Schwab, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Gov. Laura Kelly and Bryan Caskey, Schwab’s director of elections, in a bid for a U.S. District Court injunction forbidding use of electronic voting machines, except for people with a disability, in the Nov. 8 general election. If granted, the state would be forced to proceed with an all-paper voting process statewide coupled with hand counting of ballots. The 77-page petition purports to offer evidence of misconduct in the November 2020 general election in Kansas that produced a victory for President Donald Trump as well as in the August 2022 primary election in which Kansas voters rejected a proposed abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Plaintiffs demanded the federal court require Kelly to void 2020 election results to lay the foundation of a special election to correct that flawed exercise in democracy. Signers of the lawsuit also want the court to instruct Schmidt to open a criminal investigation of Schwab.

Full Article: Kansas election conspiracy theorists seek 2020 redo, ban on electronic voting machines in 2022 – Kansas Reflector

Kansas: “We’ve got to find soebody”: Johnson County Sheriff appears to lack probable cause in election inquiry | Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, who has spent months promoting a criminal investigation into elections, told a gathering of residents last week that “we’ve got to find somebody” who knows election rigging is happening. But the Republican sheriff appeared to acknowledge he doesn’t have probable cause, the legal standard required to seek a search or arrest warrant, after the investigation helped foster baseless suspicions of voter fraud. He also said he launched the inquiry to force the preservation of 2020 election records. The comments came during a nearly two-hour meeting inside a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office facility. Video of the meeting, which took place Aug. 30, was posted on Friday on Rumble, a video sharing platform popular among the right-wing politicians and supporters. Hayden’s remarks offer additional insight into an investigation that hasn’t led to any charges or arrests but has helped build his profile among election deniers. At the meeting, Hayden appeared to lay the groundwork to explain why his amorphous investigation hasn’t progressed. He told the audience that he has “tons of reasonable suspicion” but says he needs probable cause for a search warrant “to swear I know a crime has been committed.” He also alluded to baseless conspiracy theories that allege China stole the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump. Some Trump supporters, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, have promoted the baseless idea.

Source: Kansas sheriff: Election investigation started over records | The Kansas City Star

Kansas certifies defeat of anti-abortion amendment, other results | Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

The Aug. 2 election in Kansas was the highest-turnout primary election in state history, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s Office said Thursday as top officials met to formally certify the results, including the defeat of an amendment to remove abortion rights from the state constitution. The unprecedented turnout in the Aug. 2 primary election was driven by extraordinary voter interest in the amendment, called Value Them Both by supporters, which would have overturned a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that found the state constitution protects abortion access. The Kansas State Board of Canvassers voted unanimously to certify the results of the amendment vote and every other state-level and congressional race at the end of a brief meeting in Topeka. In addition to Schwab, the board includes Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who will face each other in the Nov. 8 general election for governor. Kelly and Schmidt shook hands, but otherwise didn’t speak to each other during the meeting as they sat on opposite ends of a table, with Schwab, who chaired the meeting, in the middle.

Source: KS certifies defeat of anti-abortion amendment, other results | The Kansas City Star

Kansas recount confirms landslide win for abortion rights, but highlights risk to democracy | Katie Bernard and Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

Kansas reaffirmed its landslide vote to uphold abortion rights after election officials on Sunday finished a recount that never had any chance of changing the outcome but was sought by an election denier and anti-abortion activist advancing baseless allegations of fraud. The exercise instead delivered a second victory for opponents of an amendment that would have stripped abortion rights from the state constitution. But the recount of such a lopsided vote, rather than building credibility in the results, risks undermining trust in elections because the process provided fringe, diehard amendment supporters an opportunity to attempt to create an aura of uncertainty surrounding the vote when, in fact, none ever existed. A hand recount in nine counties – including Johnson and Sedgwick, the state’s two largest – cost roughly $120,000 and burned countless hours as election officials scrambled to conclude the arduous process before a Saturday deadline. Kansas voters rejected the amendment, called Value Them Both by supporters, 59% to 41% with a margin of about 165,000 votes. The partial recount ultimately changed the outcome by fewer than 60 votes —an infinitesimal fraction of the overall vote that included ballots from more than 922,000 Kansans.

Source: Kansas abortion vote confirmed with partial amendment recount | The Kansas City Star

Four Kansas counties complete abortion amendment recount | The Kansas City Star

Four of the nine counties ordered to undergo a hand recount of votes in Kansas’ abortion ballot initiative have finished their tallies with minimal changes to the overall vote total. Johnson County had not yet begun counting its ballots Wednesday afternoon. Mark Gietzen, a Wichita anti-abortion activist, and Melissa Leavitt, a Colby election denier, scraped together around $120,000 Monday to force a partial hand recount of the abortion rights affirming vote. They chose four of Kansas’ biggest counties — Johnson, Sedgwick, Douglas and Shawnee. They also chose five smaller counties — Crawford, Harvey, Jefferson, Lyon and Thomas. All but Thomas had a majority of voters reject the amendment. The recount, which began Tuesday and must be finished by Saturday, is virtually guaranteed to fail in changing the outcome of the election. Kansans rejected the amendment 59% to 41%, a gap of more than 165,000 votes.

Full Article: Four Kansas counties complete abortion amendment recount | The Kansas City Star

Kansas to recount abortion vote by hand, despite big margin | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas’ elections director says the state will go along with a request for a hand recount of votes from every county after last week’s decisive statewide vote affirming abortion rights, even though there was a 165,000-vote difference and a recount won’t change the result. Melissa Leavitt, of Colby in far western Kansas, requested the recount and declined to comment to reporters Friday evening, citing work obligations. But she said on an online site raising funds for a recount that she had “seen data” about the election. Her post was not more specific, and there is no evidence of significant problems with the election. Baseless election conspiracies have circulated widely in the U.S., particularly among supporters of former President Donald Trump, who has repeated false claims that he lost the 2020 election through fraud. Kansas law requires Leavitt to post a bond to cover the entire cost of the recount. Bryan Caskey, state elections director for the Kansas secretary of state’s office, said it would be the first recount of the votes on a statewide ballot question in at least 30 years.

Full Article: Kansas to recount abortion vote by hand, despite big margin | AP News

Kansas: Narrow GOP primary election for  treasurer triggers audit | Bill Lukitch/The Kansas City Star

A close Republican primary for Kansas treasurer has triggered a heightened post-election audit in Johnson County, along with every other county across the state, as the two GOP candidates seeking the party’s nomination were separated by a mere 312 votes on Wednesday evening. Unofficial results from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office showed Rep. Steven Johnson ahead of Sen. Caryn Tyson by less than 1 percentage point as of 6 p.m. Under a new Kansas law enacted during the last session, every county election office in the state must now perform a post-election audit where ballots cast in 10% of each county’s precincts will be recounted by hand. During a press call on Wednesday, Bryan Caskey, the state’s director of elections, said the GOP primary for treasurer was the only one that met the threshold for the increased post-election audit. He said every county would also be performing the additional state-required audit of a statewide, state legislative and county race in addition to the constitutional amendment question regarding the right to have an abortion in Kansas Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman said Wednesday that his workers were in a bit of a scramble to get everything done in time. Although the voters have all done their part, he said the work was only beginning for the election office. “We just got out of gates with the work we have to do,” Sherman said. Johnson County, the most populated in Kansas, has 610 precincts. By state law the hand recount for the GOP treasurer primary will include 61 precincts. Seven precincts there will be recounted by hand in the other part of the post-election audit.

Full Article: Close GOP primary election for KS treasurer triggers audit | The Kansas City Star

Kansas appeals court says secretary of state violated open records law by altering computer system | Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab violated state open records law when he ordered a software vendor to disable the ability to produce a public record, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled on Friday. The ruling is the latest victory for Davis Hammet, a voting rights advocate, in his three-year legal fight with Schwab over access to provisional ballot data under the Kansas Open Records Act. “By turning off the report capability, the secretary denied reasonable public access to that public record and the information within it,” Justice Stephen Hill wrote in the appeals court decision. “That action — choosing to conceal rather than reveal public records — violates KORA.” Each election cycle, Kansans cast tens of thousands of provisional ballots, many of which are discarded. Some of the issues can be corrected. A voter may have neglected to update their registration after moving, or an election official may question the validity of a signature on a mail-in ballot. Hammet, the president of Loud Light, which works to educate and engage young adults and underrepresented communities on elections in Kansas, has filed a series of requests for provisional ballot reports under the Kansas Open Records Act. The goal is to help voters have their ballots can be counted, and to research the issue to better advise public officials about policies that impact voters.

Full Article: Kansas appeals court says secretary of state violated open records law by altering computer system – Kansas Reflector

Kansas Secretary of State weary of fact-averse out-of-staters who insult Kansas election system | Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector

Secretary of State Scott Schwab believes election security requires vigilance due to evolution of cyber threats, but the voice of Kansas’ top election official revealed a touch of exasperation when conversation pivoted to uninformed people dedicated to shaking public confidence in voting systems. Schwab said Kansas had conducted 300 post-election audits without uncovering a single failure. Still, he said, people were pushing theories of voter misconduct that fell short when it came to leaping from suspicion to fact. “Folks from out of state have come in and insulted the Kansas election system,” Schwab said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “And, they haven’t read our laws. They’ve never been here on Election Day. They’d never watched the tabulation process. They’ve never been a poll worker.” … The Kansas Legislature adopted a collection of new election policies during the 2022 session, and Schwab said he had no objection to the Legislature’s efforts to make certain every legal vote was counted. In the background, however, was a national movement stoked by election skeptics who declared — without evidence — the United States was awash in fraud.

Full Article: Secretary of state weary of fact-averse out-of-staters who insult Kansas election system – Kansas Reflector

Kansas: Unbothered by cost concerns, state senators approve ballot watermark bill | Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector

The Senate on Tuesday approved a senator’s efforts to ensure all voting systems in Kansas use a paper ballot with a distinctive watermark. Senate Bill 389, introduced by Sen. Richard Hildebrand, R-Galena, also requires a hand audit of these ballots after the election. Currently, Kansas requires election clerks to physically stamp each ballot, but Hildebrand brought the bill to ensure human error does not come into play. In a hearing earlier this month, voting rights advocates raised concerns about the impact of the bill on Kansans with disabilities and the cost for counties to print new ballots. The concerns were echoed by Senate Democrats who said this would not address any real issue. “I am happy to support things that will make our election process more secure. I don’t see any way that this would do that,” said Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, during debate over the bill on Monday. “I also know that we are putting all the cost of this on our counties, and it is not something that any of my county residents have asked for.” Hildebrand countered that the cost was with the perceived security. “How much is peace of mind worth? Two cents? I’ll put my two cents in,” Hildebrand said. The state would not incur any costs, although counties would incur costs related to ballot printing and additional wages for election board workers. The Senate gave preliminary approval to the bill on Monday, then passed it 27-11 on Tuesday.

Full Article: Unbothered by cost concerns, Kansas senators approve ballot watermark bill – Kansas Reflector

Kansas House committee explores options for expanding election audits | Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector

The Kansas secretary of state’s office and election reform organizations are backing legislation significantly broadening post-election auditing of close political races. A bill under consideration in the Kansas House would require hand counting of 10% of county precincts whenever a federal, statewide or legislative race was decided by a margin of 1% or less of votes on election night. The proposed reform would be applied in even-numbered election years on top of a 2018 requirement auditing occur in 1% of precincts in each county in randomly selected races for county, state and federal offices. In addition, House Bill 2570 would require new process-and-procedure audits of four randomly selected counties in odd-numbered years following a federal election. Clay Barker, deputy assistant secretary of state, said process audits would test voting machine accuracy, review the list of registered voters and in-person early voters, examine reasons for rejecting provisional ballots and look at signature verification materials. “Although we remain confident in our election procedures and audits, we understand the constant need to improve and enhance our processes,” Barker said. He said Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s office worked with the Kansas County Clerks and Election Officials Association to make certain reforms in the bill were attainable.

Full Article: Kansas House committee explores options for expanding election audits – Kansas Reflector

Kansas to pay $1.4M in legal fees for Kris Kobach-backed lawsuit fail | Andrew Bahl/Topeka Capital-Journal

A federal judge approved a deal Wednesday that would see the state pay out over $1.4 million in legal fees to a group of attorneys, including the American Civil Liberties Union, stemming from a prolonged court fight over a controversial voting law favored by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson signed off on the agreement, which is less than half of the $3.3 million initially requested by the groups. The parties reached an agreement on the matter and presented it to the judge Friday. The costs come from a five-year legal battle over legislation originally passed in 2011 and championed by Kobach, which required an individual present their birth certificate or passport in order to register to vote. The law was struck down by a federal judge in 2018 and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the case last year. After its introduction, the requirement was blamed for the suspension of thousands of voter registration applications, as residents didn’t necessarily have the right documents to prove their citizenship.

Full Article: Kansas to pay $1.4M in legal fees for Kris Kobach-backed lawsuit fail

Kansas altered software to hide election records, lawsuit claims | Roxanna Hegeman/Associated Press

A judge is considering whether Kansas’ Republican secretary of state ran afoul of the state’s open records law by ordering the removal of an election database function that generates a statewide report showing which provisional ballots were not counted — a decision civil rights advocates say will have far-reaching implications for government transparency. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson heard arguments last week in a lawsuit filed by voting rights activist Davis Hammet, who is the president of Loud Light, a nonprofit that strives to increase voter turnout. The group helps voters fix any issues that led them to cast provisional ballots so that their votes are counted. Voters are given provisional ballots if they don’t appear to be registered, if they fail to present the required identification or if they are trying to vote at the wrong polling place. “We know there are deficiencies… where they aren’t counting votes that they should be counting and I think on some level there may be a resistance from the secretary of state to provide that data because it means we can highlight these deficiencies,” Hammet said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We can prove how there are votes that should have been counted that are not being counted.” That information can raise public awareness about problems in the elections system, leading to changes in state law. He noted the political outcry over the hundreds of discarded mail-in ballots statewide in the 2018 primary led to legislation a year later that requires election officials to notify voters before their mail-in ballots are thrown out because of problems with signatures.

Full Article: Lawsuit: Kansas altered software to hide election records

Kansas: Judge to decide if top election official can withhold records by altering software | Sherman Smith/The Kansas City Star

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the state’s open records law might as well not exist if Secretary of State Scott Schwab is allowed to keep public information hidden by reconfiguring software. Attorney Josh Pierson argued Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court for the release of provisional ballot data requested by Davis Hammet, a voter rights advocate who hoped to educate the public about why their ballots weren’t being counted. Hammet won a lawsuit last year over whether details about provisional ballots are a public record, and District Judge Teresa Watson ordered Schwab to turn the information over. The Republican secretary of state, whose agency oversees elections and manages a statewide voter database, instead ordered software engineers to remove the database function that allows the agency to produce the records. The secretary then denied Hammet’s request on the grounds that the records no longer exist. Schwab’s office told Hammet he could still get access to the data, but only if he paid $522 for the database vendor, Election Systems & Software, to retrieve it. Hammet sued again, with support from the ACLU. “This is gamesmanship,” Pierson said. “This was an attempt by the secretary to not have to produce these records that he litigated to not have to produce. He lost. He took matters into his own hands.”

Full Article: Schwab altered software to hide records, voting activist says. | The Kansas City Star

Kansas officials rack up $4M bill in defense of Kris Kobach’s baseless voter fraud law | Sherman Smith/The Kansas City Star

The American Civil Liberties Union and other attorneys want to be repaid more than $4 million for their five-year legal battle with Kansas officials who fought to restrict voter registration under the false pretense of widespread voter fraud. The proposed price tag adds a punctuation mark to the prolonged fight over former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s signature law, which required new voters to prove their citizenship before registering to vote. Kobach suffered defeat during an embarrassing 2018 trial in federal court, and stiffed taxpayers with the bills when he was twice held in contempt and ordered to go back to law school. Nadine Johnson, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said Kobach and others who were determined to defend an unconstitutional law were to blame for the cost. “That’s a choice they made,” Johnson said. “They can’t then come back and say that it’s our fault. They made that choice. You can’t throw up all these roadblocks, and then complain that we’re pushing through the roadblocks.”

Full Article: Kobach’s voter fraud bill costs Kansas millions | The Kansas City Star

Kansas: US Supreme Court won’t revive voting law requiring proof of citizenship | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court declined Monday to revive a Kansas law that required showing specific proof-of-citizenship documents before registering to vote, ending a fight that had continued for years. A trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit had declared it unconstitutional. It was championed by former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a Republican who had led the short-lived voter fraud commission President Trump formed to try to substantiate his unproven claims that millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States were voting. Kobach was defeated in his attempts for higher office in the state. The court did not give a reason for rejecting the appeal of the state’s new secretary of state, Scott Schwab. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) had opposed the effort asking for Supreme Court review. Kansas had been the only state to require a physical document such as a birth certificate or passport to register to vote. The state said it did not deter legitimate voters because it allowed additional kinds of identification forms.

Full Article: Supreme Court won?t revive Kansas voting law requiring proof of citizenship – The Washington Post

Kansas: More Kansans are asking for mail ballots while officials work to make polling places pandemic-safe | Jim McLean/Shawnee Mission Post

Facing the prospect of standing in line at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic, requests from Kansans for mail ballots continue to come in at a record clip. As of June 17, more than 142,000 Kansans had filed applications for advance ballots for the Aug. 4 primary. That far exceeds the 54,000 requested at the same point in the last presidential election year. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said the jump reflects worries about in-person voting, but he’s not willing to heed calls from state Democratic Party officials to switch to all-mail elections. That would create “massive voter confusion,” said Schwab, a Republican preparing to oversee his first statewide election. Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — conduct all elections by mail. Other states may do so this year to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases. Kansas Democrats conducted their May 2 presidential primary entirely by mail. They considered it such a success that State Party Chair Vicki Hiatt said Schwab should use a similar process for this year’s primary and general elections rather than putting “a whole lot of money into making provisions for safety.”

Kansas: Despite Trump’s attacks, Kansas voters request 2020 mail ballots at historic rate | Bryan Lowry and Sarah Ritter/The Wichita Eagle

Johnson County election workers spent Memorial Day weekend sending out roughly 380,000 applications for mail ballots — one to every registered voter in the state’s most populous county. Kansas has allowed voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason since 1996. But the unprecedented move by county officials reflects COVID-19’s impact on the mechanics and politics of voting in 2020. Their hope is to prevent long lines in August and November, as voters elect a new U.S. senator and other office holders amid the ongoing the pandemic. “Because of COVID-19, we’re very concerned about our voters and poll workers. So the secretary of state and county officials decided we wanted to encourage vote-by-mail, and in Kansas, we’re lucky to have that option,” said Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt. “And since we don’t know what the pandemic is going to look like in the fall, we decided to go ahead and mail out forms for both elections.” Election officials in Sedgwick County will be doing the same this week and plan on sending another round of applications in September. Douglas and Leavenworth Counties are also mailing applications to all voters, while election officials in other counties have sent postcards to voters explaining how to apply for a mail ballot.

Kansas: Johnson County will consider spending $1 million to update voting machinery to address COVID-19 concerns | Roxie Hammill/Shawnee Mission Post

County election officials are getting set to spend $1 million soon to add tabulation devices to its two-year-old voting machinery – a move election officials say is necessary because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. But the change also renders redundant the built-in tabulation function that was the star feature of the $10.6 million purchase in 2018. That year the county was first in the country to use the voting machine/tabulation combo that had just been developed by vendor Election Systems and Software, of Omaha. The existing machines will now basically become ballot markers instead. Voters who use them to make their choices will then walk their marked ballots over to a separate tabulator to be counted, said Connie Schmidt, who is election commissioner through this year’s ballots, after which the Secretary of State’s appointee Fred Sherman will take over. The plan is to swap out 240 of the voting machines with brand-new DS 200 tabulators, Schmidt said. But because they aren’t equal in price, the county will need to spend another $1,020,500. And it has to be done before the end of May, because that’s when special pricing expires from a previous group deal with Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties. All but about $35,000 may be reimbursed from federal funds.

Kansas: Elections move ahead, while virus changes game for candidates | Stephen Koranda/Hays Post

Tobias Wood is thinking twice about working at a polling place in Shawnee County this year. He’s done it since 2018, but now he’s practicing social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. He knows that might be difficult during elections, when he needs to handle people’s IDs and have voters sign in on a tablet. “We don’t have control over what people come in with,” he said. “That’s something that really scares me.” Kansas’ late primary — Aug. 3 — puts it in a less urgent position to either postpone it as Missouri and other states did, or go forward with fewer polling places like Wisconsin. It’s why Secretary of State Scott Schwab is avoiding major changes like rescheduling election dates. “You’ve got to be really careful because you’re going to create voter confusion if you move the day,” said Schwab, who hopes the virus will have largely run its course by August. “That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to avoid is voter confusion.”

Kansas: Counties’ websites may lack security against hackers | Associated Press

Many Kansas counties’websites may be at risk as they lack basic protocols that make it easier for hackers to impersonate websites in order to install malware or trick individuals into giving out their personal information. Out of 105 counties, only eight of them have websites ending in .gov, a domain extension only government officials can control, and 60 counties’ URLs start with “http” rather than the more secure “https.” Experts say it could be a serious concern for smaller governments during a time of increasing cyberattacks, KCUR-FM reported. Local governments have in recent years become frequent targets of ransomware attacks, where hackers hold data hostage in exchange for money.

Kansas: Elections chief’s security plan causes local unease | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas’ elections chief is pushing to make the state’s central voter registration database more secure by changing how counties tap into it, but some officials are nervous about what they see as a big project in a busy election year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab has told county election officials that he wants them to use dedicated tablets, laptops or computers not linked to their counties’ networks to access the state’s voter registration database. He says Kansas is getting $8 million in federal election security funds that could be used to cover the costs. Schwab, a Republican and former Kansas House member from the Kansas City area who became the state’s top elections official last year, contends such a setup will decrease the likelihood of foreign nationals, foreign governments or domestic hackers gaining access to voter registration records. His idea has bipartisan support. In September 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told officials in 21 states that their election systems had been targeted by hackers before the 2016 presidential election. Kansas wasn’t on the list, but Schwab said in an interview last week that “every area of government gets pinged thousands of times.”

Kansas: Democrats sue over Kansas delay in start of ‘vote anywhere’ | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas and national Democratic Party groups on Friday sued the Republican official who oversees the state’s elections, accusing him of violating voters’ rights by delaying the implementation of a law designed to make voting on Election Day more convenient. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Topeka after Secretary of State Scott Schwab said his office would need another year to draft regulations needed for counties to take advantage of a 2019 state “vote anywhere” law. The law permits counties to allow voters to cast their ballots at any polling place within their borders on Election Day, rather than only at a single site. Some officials in Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city, Wichita, believe it is ready to allow voters to choose their polling sites. They note that it has allowed voters to cast their ballots in advance at multiple locations for more than a decade, with the county’s entire electronic voter registration database accessible to workers at each one. It also deployed new voting machines in 2017 that allow a “vote anywhere” system.

Kansas: Senate panel considers bill requiring paper ballots in Kansas elections | Sydney Hoover/The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill that would require all Kansas counties to use paper ballots to count votes. Ballots would have several requirements, including the voter’s signature. Votes would be counted by hand or using vote-tabulating equipment that would tally the paper ballot. “At one time, everything was paper ballots, but now Kansas currently has a mix,” said Sen. Richard Hildebrand, R-Baxter Springs. “Once you cast your ballot, you are up to whatever the machine says you voted without the verification from the voter.” Hildebrand said the bill would eliminate the chance of issues such as those during the Iowa caucuses, where a faulty mobile application failed to transmit votes and caused a delay in results.

Kansas: County, lawmakers battle to make voting easier this year | Dion Lefler/The Wichita Eagle

Sedgwick County is turning to the state Legislature to try to force Secretary of State Scott Schwab to let county voters choose their own polling place in this year’s upcoming elections. A Republican lawmaker has agreed to introduce a bill to let the County Commission change the voting procedure without Schwabb’s blessing. Meanwhile, the top Senate Democrat says he may take Schwab to court in an effort to make him comply with a law passed last year. The law at issue would replace traditional polling places with “voting centers” around the community. Any voter could vote at any voting center, instead of having to go to an assigned polling place on election day. Commissioners and legislators say they think Schwab has dragged his feet on implementing the law. “I’m very frustrated over this thing,” said county Commissioner Jim Howell. “We passed this law last year, we pushed it forward late in the (legislative) session because we wanted to have this ready for the 2020 elections.” “Now here we are eight or nine months later and he hasn’t written any rules and regulations yet. Why?” Schwab says he supports the new law, but crafting the regulations and ensuring necessary cybersecurity precautions is a complicated process that won’t be done in time for this year’s presidential and Senate elections.

Kansas: State won’t be ready to implement vote center law for 2020 elections | Tim Carpenter /The Topeka Capital-Journal

Secretary of State Scott Schwab predicted Tuesday regulations necessary to implement a state law allowing Kansans to vote at the polling station of their choice won’t be completed in time for the August or November elections in 2020. Schwab told members of the Senate’s election committee that technical considerations, including cellphone coverage problems, in the state’s 105 counties made the process of drafting rules complex. The program won’t be finalized until 2021, he said. The voting reform bill signed last year by Gov. Laura Kelly was inspired by a proposal from Sedgwick County officials. “They are not going to be ready by this year simply because we don’t want to screw up,” the secretary of state said. “If we rushed it through for this year, I promise you there would be a lot of mistakes.”

Kansas: Election Officials Say They’re On Guard For Hackers Messing With Your 2020 Vote | Stephen Koranda/HPPR

Kansas and federal election officials say they know the 2020 election could come under attack from foreign governments or rogue hackers. They also insist they’re braced to guard against efforts to tamper with voting. In recent elections, Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in more than 20 states and successfully accessed voter registration data in Illinois. The top election official in Kansas assumes  the state’s voting system could be next. “We got a U.S. Senate seat up for election, so that even makes it more of a target,” Republican Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said. “We’re not going to assume we’re safe, even though we are right now.” Federal law enforcement officials warn that foreign governments will try to undermine the results and influence public sentiment. “Russia, China, Iran and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” read a joint statement from the FBI and other federal security officials last month.

Kansas: Cyberattacks vandalized Kansas county websites in August, exposing security weaknesses | Jonathan Shorman/The Wichita Eagle

Cyberattacks crippled the websites of about a dozen Kansas counties in early August — replacing their homepages with cryptic messages and an image of Mecca. One county, which was conducting an election during the assault, decided against posting results online. The attacks did not affect vote counting but meant citizens didn’t have access to normal government information, such as contacts for local agencies, for several hours. The hacks defaced websites, but did not affect other systems. It does not appear the hacker or hackers took data hostage, as has happened elsewhere in the country. State officials don’t think the hacking was connected to the August primary election. But the attacks — not widely known until now — showcased the cyber vulnerabilities of local governments in Kansas. And they took place as online threats are rising.