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Minutes for SB208 - Committee on Federal and State Affairs

Short Title

Restricting the number of remote ballot boxes that may be used in each county and requiring certain monitoring conditions for such use.

Minutes Content for Mon, Feb 20, 2023

Jason Long, Office of the Revisor of Statutes gave an overview of the bill.  SB208 concerns the use of remote ballot boxes by county election officials.  There are currently no regulations for the use of such boxes.  The bill would limit each county to one box during each election, to be located in the county election office, and continually monitored by two individuals who are affiliated with different political parties.  The box may be open and accessible during the election office's business hours, and must be closed at 7 pm on election day, with the exception of those who are in line to deposit their ballots. (Attachment 1)

The Chairman indicated 15 minutes each would be allowed for proponent and opponent testimony.

The Chairman called for oral proponent testimony.

Proponent oral testimony

Kris Kobach, Kansas Attorney General, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  He stated he oversaw elections for eight years when he served as the Kansas Secretary of State, "and fraud involving the harvesting of large numbers of absentee ballots is a real thing, and drop boxes make this form of voter fraud extremely easy to accomplish".  He explained the current limit of ten ballots dropped is unenforceable under current law, and unmonitored drop boxes make it easy to get around that limit.  He stated voting by mail also poses the threat of ballot harvesting, but the cost of postage is a deterrent to large schemes, and using the United States Postal Service to perpetrate fraud is a federal crime.  He also suggested two possible amendments to the bill. (Attachment 2)

Michelle Eagleman, private citizen, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  She stated the training she received as a poll worker was very thorough and serious, and they had to be very meticulous about making sure everything was validated and in order when people came to cast their ballots in person.  However, the drop boxes were completely unmonitored, with no way of knowing who put ballots in, how many they put in, and how many times they may have dropped ballots.  She questioned why we should be "so so, meticulous about ballots at the polling station if the ballot drop boxes really have no regulation?"  (Attachment 3)

Madeline Malisa, visiting fellow, Opportunity Solutions Project, spoke as a proponent of the bill.  Ms. Malisa stated Kansas law currently has no laws over ballot boxes, and SB208 will provide important security and transparency measures for ballot boxes, and will greatly increase voter confidence in the advanced voting process.  (Attachment 4)

 

Proponent written testimony

Brent Anderson, private citizen (Attachment 5)

Debbie Detmer, private citizen (Attachment 6)

Seth Graber, private citizen (Attachment 7)

Rita Hoffman, private citizen (Attachment 8)

John Ims, private citizen (Attachment 9)

Peggy Mast, private citizen (Attachment 10)

Carisa McMullen, private citizen (Attachment 11)

Jannel Munk, private citizen (Attachment 12)

Carolyn Simms, private citizen (Attachment 13)

Steve Snitz, private citizen (Attachment 14)

Kari Sue Vosburgh, private citizen (Attachment 15)

 

Neutral written testimony

Mike Brown, Chair, Kansas Republican Party (Attachment 16)

Jill O'Connor, private citizen (Attachment 17)

The Chairman called for oral opponent testimony, noting the 15 minute time restriction.

Oral Opponents

Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State, spoke as an opponent of the bill.  Secretary Schwab said there are restrictions concerning ballot drop boxes, including the use of security envelopes, the requirement for a person to ask for the ballot before it will count, drivers licenses are required, and there are cameras monitoring the boxes.  He stated SB208 doesn't solve a problem, but pushes people towards using the mail to submit their ballots, when most of them will go out of state before getting to the destination.  He said drop box fraud hasn't been an issue in Kansas. (Attachment 18)

Mike Burgess, Disability Rights Center of Kansas spoke as an opponent of the bill.  He stated the changes to the usage of drop boxes in this bill will make it harder for individuals with disabilities to get their ballots in. He said many people on Medicaid with disabilities only have assistance at night, and the reduced hours where a drop box is available would make it a barrier for them. (Attachment 19)

Davis Hammet, Loud Light Civic Action spoke as an opponent of the bill.  He said there's been no specific case of problems with ballot drop boxes in Kansas.  He listed technical concerns in the bill and stated two sections contradict each other.  He feels this bill would take away evening voting for those who work late. (Attachment 20)

Cille King, League of Women Voters, spoke as an opponent of the bill.  She stated many of her volunteers do poll work and they are opposed because it limits voting for large swathes of people like nursing home residents and those who can't get in and out of their car. (Attachment 21)

Caleb Smith, Kansas Appleseed, spoke as an opponent of the bill.  He stated drop boxes increase voter turnout by as much as 7%, and the biggest problem his organization has with the bill is that it is targeted at making the boxes less accessible.  He questioned who the people would be who will be watching the boxes, who trains them, and how they would be supervised. (Attachment 22)

Melissa Stiehler, private citizen, spoke as an opponent of the bill. She stated Shawnee County has already implemented the restrictions proposed in SB208, and said she has never lived anywhere where it is so hard to vote early. (Attachment 23)

With no more time remaining, the Chairman closed oral opponent testimony, and noted the three remaining oral opponents' testimony was in written form before the Committee.

 

Written Opponent Testimony

Rick Piepho, Harvey County Clerk and Chairman of the Kansas County Clerks & Election Officials Association (Attachment 24)

Jim Howell, Sedgwick County Commissioner (Attachment 25)

Jae Moyer, Engagement Coordinator, Mainstream Coalition (Attachment 26)

Jennifer Ancell, private citizen (Attachment 27)

Alileen Berquist, Policy Director, American Civil Liberties Union (Attachment 28)

Alice Capson, private citizen (Attachment 29)

Chloe Chaffin, private citizen (Attachment 30)

Jay Hall, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Kansas Association of Counties (Attachment 31)

Hilary Junk, private citizen (Attachment 32)

Jeanne Koontz, private citizen (Attachment 33)

Leslie Mark, private citizen (Attachment 34)

Lauren Tice Miller, Director of Government Relations and Elections, Kansas National Education  Association (Attachment 35)

Paris Raite, private citizen (Attachment 36)

Jonathan Smith, private citizen (Attachment 37)

Thad Snider, private citizen (Attachment 38)

 

The Chairman opened for a period of questions and answers.

Seeing no more questions, the Chairman closed the hearing on SB208.