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A federal judge struck down portions of a controversial Kansas election law on Thursday, ruling them unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil struck down provisions in statute KSA 25-1122 banning out-of-state entities from mailing advance ballot applications and prohibiting the applications from containing any pre-filled information.
Both provisions had previously been temporarily blocked, and Vratil last year permanently enjoined the state from enforcing the out-of-state mail provisions.
That left only the personalized application ban remaining to address in Thursday's ruling from the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan.
"Defendants have not established that the Personalized Application Prohibition is narrowly tailored to achieve the state's alleged interests in the enhancement of public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process and avoiding fraud, the avoidance of voter confusion or the facilitation of orderly and efficient election administration," Vratil wrote. "The Personalized Application Prohibition cannot withstand strict scrutiny and is therefore an unconstitutional infringement on plaintiff’s First Amendment rights to speech and association."
Such rationales weren't supported by the legislative record for HB 2332, Vratil wrote.
The law also violates the Fourteenth Amendment, she ruled.
The plaintiffs were VoteAmerica and Voter Participation Center.
Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Voter Participation Center, said the organization sued because the "dangerous law" would have made voting by mail more difficult, calling it an "assault on our democracy."
The law was enacted in 2021 through House Bill 2332 as Republican supermajorities overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. The governor said in her veto message that the law was "designed to disenfranchise Kansans ... not to stop voter fraud."
"Kansas's law was one in a nationwide trend by state legislatures moving to restrict the freedom to vote," said Paul Smith, vice president for litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, in a statement. "Beyond just targeting voters, however, laws like HB 2332 specifically take aim at the ability of nonpartisan, public interest organizations to help people navigate confusing systems and encourage them to exercise their ability to vote by mail."
The Voter Participation Center and a sister organization sent advance mail ballot application packets to about 500,000 Kansas voters in 2020. About 112,000 voters used the provided pre-paid and pre-addressed envelope to mail an advance ballot application to their county election office, with about 69,000 of those using the application provided by the group.
Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Attorney General Kris Kobach were defendants in the case, as was Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe.
"We believe that the ruling is incorrect and we intend to appeal," Kobach said in a statement.
Schwab's office declined to comment.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Federal judge strikes down Kansas election law as unconstitutional