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Grade TL;DR

In both 2021 and 2022, the Legislature and the governor were at odds with each other over voting rights. Both years followed the same pattern where the Legislature passed anti-voter legislation, the governor vetoed it, and then the Legislature overrode those vetoes to enact new voting restrictions. Taking into account the amount of anti-voter legislation that was passed while also recognizing the governor’s hard-fought battle to protect voting rights, Kansas received a C+ on this year’s progress report.

Looking Back

Where Kansas Started in 2020

  • Automatic Voter Registration: No
  • Online Voter Registration: No
  • Same-Day Registration: No
  • Restoration of Rights: Parole and/or Probation Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: No
  • Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
  • ID Requirements: Strict Photo ID

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Kansas as of 2020, we considered the state a bottom tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other bottom tier states.

How Our Tier Compares:

  • COVI (2020): 38th
  • EPI Score (2020): 44th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 8/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): FAIR

2021: Two Years Ago

Legislative Action

The Legislature introduced more than a dozen anti-voter bills during the 2021 session. By the close of session, many of these bills had been consolidated into two larger bills that became law.

  • H 2183 requires election officials to conduct signature review on all advance ballots without any cure provisions, prohibits election officials from accepting private funds for elections, and needlessly complicates the process for voters that choose to have their advance voting ballot returned by someone else. It also subjects election officials and ballot returners to potential felony and misdemeanor charges for violating these new rules.
  • H 2332 imposes new regulations on how third party groups can provide advance ballot applications to voters, bars the governor from making changes to election laws through executive orders, and bars the secretary of state and the courts from entering into legal agreements and consent decrees related to election laws without specific legislative approval. This bill is the subject of ongoing litigation and several provisions were permanently prohibited from being enacted.

Executive Action

  • Governor Kelly attempted to stand up for voters by vetoing both of the anti-voter bills passed through the Legislature, but unfortunately, the Legislature was able to successfully override both vetoes.
  • The state reached an important agreement with an alliance of advocacy groups to increase voter registration opportunities at the Department of Health and Environment and the Department for Children and Families, in compliance with federal law. These agencies committed to work to update outdated policies, incorporate voter registration information into benefit materials, and provide voter registration information and applications at agency offices and online.

2022: This Past Year

Legislative Action

During the 2022 session, the Kansas Legislature yet again continued to introduce election-related bills that contained mostly anti-voter provisions. And yet again, luckily, only a very small number of those bills ultimately became law.

  • H 2252 prohibits the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general from entering into legal agreements and consent decrees related to election laws without legislative approval. Similar to H 2183 passed in 2021, this bill continues to add to the list of executive branch officers that are restricted from entering into election-law related agreements without legislative approval.
  • H 2138 creates a new biennial election audit process that will require four counties to be randomly audited every other year. Unfortunately, the rules for “randomly” selecting counties include population-based requirements that will ensure certain larger counties become targets for more frequent audits. Additionally, voters that do not cast a ballot or engage in other “election-related” activity for four years will also now become targets for potential removal from the voter rolls.

Executive Action

  • Similar to 2021, Governor Kelly again, unsuccessfully attempted to veto anti-voter legislation. And again, the Legislature was able to override her veto. As Governor Kelly noted at the time, H 2252 “prevents the executive branch from fulfilling its constitutional duties” and will “lead to costly litigation at the expense of Kansas taxpayers.”