Sen. Randall Hardy on Thursday proposed an expansion of legislation aimed at lowering the number of ballots that get tossed in the trash after Election Day.
The bill already would preserve thousands of provisional ballots cast by Kansas voters who move from one county to another without updating their registration.
Hardy, a Salina Republican who sponsored the bill, wanted to apply the same protection for individuals who ask to vote in the days before an election. He introduced an amendment during debate on the Senate floor.
"When I had this bill envisioned in my head,“ Hardy said, ”it was to include voters that want to fill out an advance ballot, as well as people that show up on Election Day at the polls."
Ensuing discussion devolved into confusion over conflicting election law and the distinction between advanced and provisional ballots. The Senate ultimately elected to send the entire plan back to the drawing board.
The move is another setback in the efforts of voting rights advocate Davis Hammet, who has worked to address problems with provisional ballots.
The state tossed 7,692 provisional ballots for the 2018 general election, including 6,173 from individuals who either weren't registered or tried to vote in the wrong jurisdiction.
When someone isn’t properly registered to vote, poll workers direct them to fill out a registration form and cast a provisional ballot. After the election, officials process the registration and place the ballot in a discard pile for canvassers. Hammet proposes counting the ballots of anyone who is eligible to vote, effectively bypassing the voter registration deadline.
The legislation that made it to the Senate floor only would have preserved provisional ballots cast by registered voters who show up in the wrong jurisdiction, which accounted for 3,810 rejected ballots in 2018. The Senate voted to send the bill back to committee.
"A conversation has been started,“ Hammet said. ”I think a lot of people are shocked when they hear these numbers. There's still time to fix all these problems. There's still time to have a clean bill that addresses all these concerns."
During debate on the proposed legislation, Sen. Eric Rucker, a Republican from Topeka who prosecuted voter fraud under former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, questioned the bill’s legality.
The voter registration deadline under Kansas law is 21 days before an election. Rucker said individuals who fail to update their registration after moving don’t belong on the voter rolls.
"To be a registered voter in the state of Kansas, you must have a residence that is in fact your current residence,“ Rucker said. ”I don't believe an individual is properly registered as a voter in the state of Kansas when they no longer have a residence in the prior jurisdiction."