Kansas Republicans took a step toward more secure elections on Tuesday when a Senate committee voted to advance a bill that aims to restrict the use of ballot drop boxes.
Passed by the Committee on Federal and State Affairs, which sponsored the measure, SB 208 would limit the number of ballot drop boxes to one per county and enhance oversight of the boxes during election cycles. Under the bill, each county’s sole drop box would be “located inside the county election office” and “continuously observed by two individuals who are each affiliated with a recognized political party, but who are not affiliated with the same political party.”
Additionally, the legislation stipulates that access to a drop box can only occur during hours when the election office is open and that said box must “be closed, locked and shall not be accessible for the deposit of advance voting ballots after 7:00 p.m. on the date of the election.”
The final committee vote was 5-4, with two Republicans joining the body’s two Democrats in opposition.
As The Federalist’s Victoria Marshall has reported, the widespread use of mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes is often unsecure and incentivizes potential ballot-harvesting operations, which occur when third parties and outside groups collect voters’ ballots and deliver them to polling places. In California, for instance, a Democrat city council member in Lodi City was arrested last week “for multiple election fraud charges,” which included allegations of ballot harvesting.
During a Monday committee hearing on the bill, Kansas GOP Attorney General Kris Kobach testified in favor of the measure, arguing it will help prevent such practices.
“If you have unmonitored drop boxes, that crime is easy to commit without any detection whatsoever,” Kobach said. “If you’re using an unmonitored drop box, no one can tell whether you dropped off 10, 22, or 100 ballots. … Now, in contrast, if you use a county election office to hand in your ballots ahead of time … there’s somebody there receiving them.”
In an interview with The Federalist, GOP Sen. Mike Thompson, who chairs the Committee on Federal and State Affairs, further described the significance of the legislation, noting that while “Kansas may not share the national spotlight with other states where the harvesting of ballots has been identified, it does not mean that it does not happen here.” It cannot be allowed to happen in Kansas, he added.
“If the voting process can be viewed as ensuring a legitimate and verifiable chain of custody from the voter’s hand to the casting and counting of the ballot, then the remote ballot drop box represents the weakest link in the chain … one that can be easily exploited,” Thompson said. “Kansas is like many other rural states where urban population centers are growing, and the rest of the state is losing population. As a result, the large number of voters in just a few counties essentially determine the outcome of statewide elections.”
“That makes it even more crucial that we shore up any potential abuse of the remote ballot drop boxes,” he concluded.
While Kansas Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to veto the measure if it’s passed by the legislature, Republicans have the numbers to override such an action, as they enjoy supermajorities in both chambers.