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Minutes for HB2056 - Committee on Elections

Short Title

Requiring all advance voting ballots to be returned by 7 p.m. on election day.

Minutes Content for Thu, Jan 26, 2023

Chairperson Proctor opened the hearing on HB 2056 and recognized Assistant Revisor, Mike Heim, Office of Revisor of Statutes to give an overview of the bill. (Attachment 1)  There were no questions following Revisor Heim's overview.

Elaina Rudder, Research Analyst, Legislative Research Department, was asked by Chairperson Proctor to brief the Committee on the article "Mail Ballot Return Deadlines" from the 2023 Kansas Legislator Briefing Book. (Attachment 2)  There were no questions.

Madeline Malisa, Visiting Fellow, Opportunity Solutions Project, introduced by Chairperson Proctor and a proponent for HB 2056 stated the bill will provide voters clarity in the election process, and confidence in the outcome. (Attachment 3)  Ms. Malisa answered questions from the Committee members.

Providing written-only proponent testimony on this bill was Keith Esau, Former Chair of the Elections Committee. (Attachment 4)

Chairperson Proctor acknowledged the following opponent conferees:

Stacey Knoell, Executive Director, Kansas African American Affairs Commission, indicated that because of the mail cycle, the three-day grace period would help ensure that the votes of rural Kansans have a chance to be counted. (Attachment 5)

Ann Mah, Former State Representative and Former Ranking Minority Member of the House Elections Committee, testified that this bill changes the deadline for receiving an advance ballot by mail from the last delivery of mail on the third day following an election to 7:00 p.m. on the date of the election.  (Attachment 6)

On behalf of Health Forward Foundation, Nathan J. Madden, Ph.D., told the Committee members that voting rights are an important social driver of health, as recently determined by the American Medical Association, and this bill requiring all advance voting ballots to be returned by 7 pm on election day, cuts directly against that. (Attachment 7)

Next, Mike Burgess, Director of Policy & Outreach at the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, shared that while the three day "grace period" may be a recent change, it has been very helpful for many Kansans with disabilities, who face additional barriers, to want to ensure their vote counts just like every other eligible Kansas voter. (Attachment 8)

Voters of all political parties like being able to sit at their kitchen table and research unfamiliar candidates stated Cille King, Advocacy Chair, League of Women Voters Kansas. (Attachment 9)

Rija Nazir, Wichita resident, asked Committee members to consider maintaining the integrity among all voting methods and vote against HB 2056. (Attachment 10)

Logan Byrd, Wichita State University student, affirmed that mail is notoriously slow, especially in rural areas, and taking away the 3-day grace period for counting ballots would mean disenfranchising a lot of voters. (Attachment 11)

Topeka resident, Melissa Stiehler, pointed out that while the 3-day grace period was only enacted in 2017, this bill was passed with unanimous approval in the Senate, overwhelming bipartisan support in the House with only two in opposition, and the Conference Committee Report was adopted with only one legislator in opposition. (Attachment 12)

Connie Brown Collins, Director/Founder, Voter Rights Network of Wyandotte County, opposes abolishing the 3-day grace period for mail-in ballots and limit their arrival to Election Day at 7:00 p.m. (Attachment 13)

Also testifying against this bill was Davis Hammet, Loud Light Civic Action.  He said the USPS has been experiencing a wave of mail delivery delays the last several years.  Rural communities face slower mail delivery times in general due to their lack of proximity to a USPS processing facility.  In fact, all Kansas mail is now processed out-of-state. (Attachment 14)

The following three opponents appearing via WebEx were opposed to HB 2056.

Caleb Smith, Inclusive Campaign Director, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, stated that the revisions to K.S.A. 25-1132 in this bill would amplify differences in voter participation by removing the window for any delays in ballots sent before the polls close. (Attachment 15)

Jae Moyer, Engagement Coordinator, Mainstream Coalition, indicated there was no credible evidence that accepting mail ballots after Election Day leads to fraud or security concerns. (Attachment 16)

Erin Woods, Kansas Citizen, shared that although advance ballots can be sent out as early as 20 days before the election, there are often other issues that can cause delays besides mail delivery time. (Attachment 17)

The following provided written-only opponent testimony:

A question and answer period followed.

Conferee Clay Barker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, General Counsel, stated the Secretary of State's office is neutral on this legislation but wishes to address several technical issues. (Attachment 31)  After addressing those issues, Committee members directed questions to Mr. Barker.

Chairperson Proctor closed the hearing on HB 2056 and thanked all of today's conferees.

The Chairperson announced that next week on Tuesday the Committee would hear HB 2057 and HB 2053 and on Thursday they would hear HB 2166.

The meeting adjourned at 4:59 p.m.

The next meeting of the House Elections Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31, 2023.