As Nov. 3 approaches, Kansas has backed recently successful efforts to prevent last-minute changes to election rules and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas has appointed a federal prosecutor to respond to complaints of possible election fraud or voting rights violations in the state on election day, officials have announced.
U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister announced the appointment of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Maag last week to serve as the district election officer for Kansas.
“I don’t expect any problems during voting,” McAllister said in a press release. “However, I want to remind Kansans that there are penalties under federal law for any efforts to influence the outcome of an election through fraud or to improperly prevent another person from exercising the right to vote. The Department of Justice has the authority to monitor polling places or take other measures to protect Kansans’ right to vote in free and fair elections.”
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, meanwhile, has announced that the state has backed efforts, which have recently been successful, to block plaintiffs and courts from making last-minute changes to election rules through litigation.
“As the courts long have recognized, there comes a point where the election is so near that judicial injunctions or other actions that change the rules are fundamentally unfair and improperly disrupt an orderly election process,” Schmidt said in a press release. “This year has seen an unusual amount of litigation seeking changes in election rules in states around the country, and we will remain vigilant in efforts to ensure the integrity of the election process is not called into question by these last-minute lawsuits.”
So far, Kansas has joined in filing briefs in five cases seeking to prevent courts from ordering election changes that could disrupt orderly conduct of the election, Schmidt’s office said. In four of those cases, appellate courts have agreed with Kansas and blocked lower-court orders that would have changed election rules.
Those four cases include one In Indiana, where a federal district court enjoined Indiana’s election-day receipt deadline for absentee ballots and imposed a postmark deadline for all absentee ballots received by Nov. 13, 10 days after the election. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the lower court’s order, keeping the election-day receipt deadline in place.
In another case in Alabama, a federal district court struck down the secretary of state’s prohibition on curbside voting, as well as witness and photo ID requirements for absentee ballots. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit stayed the lower-court ruling on absentee ballots, but let stand the ruling that would permit curbside voting. Alabama intends to appeal the curbside matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the practice breaks the chain of custody of ballots and threatens election security.
In Arizona, a federal district court enjoined the state’s law requiring absentee ballots to be signed and received by 7 p.m. on election day. The court also ordered Arizona to create and institute a new procedure that would grant voters who failed to sign their ballots up to five days after the election to correct the error. Finding Arizona was likely to prevail in the litigation on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit earlier this month issued a stay of the district court’s order.
In Georgia, a federal district court had ordered the state to count absentee ballots that were postmarked and received within three days of the election, despite a state law requiring ballots to be received by 7 p.m. election day to be counted. Finding Georgia was likely to prevail in the litigation on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit earlier this month stayed the lower-court decision.
One other case remained pending as of last week. In that case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling requiring the secretary of state to accept absentee ballots up to three days after the election provided they were not postmarked after Nov. 3. That case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Schmidt's office on Oct. 7 also successfully defended against a lawsuit seeking to strike down the longstanding Kansas law that prohibits electioneering near polling places, it announced last week. In that case, Clark et al v. Schmidt et al, the federal district court in Topeka entered summary judgement in favor of Kansas.
U.S. Attorney McAllister urged the public to report any election fraud or abuses to the appropriate authorities.
“Ensuring free and fair elections depends in large part on the cooperation of the American electorate,” McAllister said. “It is imperative that those who have specific information about discrimination or election fraud make that information available to my Office, the FBI, or the Civil Rights Division.”
The FBI will have special agents on hand in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day, and complaints about possible violations of federal voting rights laws can also be made directly to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/