TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas’s GOP-controlled legislature showed Thursday it is likely to pass a bill that eliminates the three extra days state voters have to return ballots by mail after an election, highlighting l influence that electoral conspiracy theories continue to exert Republican thinking.
But vote totals in the Kansas House and Senate strongly suggest that conspiracy theory proponents lack the power to overcome possible opposition from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Each house passed its own separate version of the bill, but each fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override any possible vetoes.
GOP lawmakers voted unanimously in 2017 to create the three-day grace period. This came amid concerns that a restructuring of the United States Postal Service’s mail sorting operations had slowed the delivery of ballots.
On Thursday, 34 of 44 Republicans still serving in the House or Senate voted to eliminate the grace period, including House Speaker Dan Hawkins and Senate Speaker Ty Masterson, both Wichita-area Republicans.
While Kansas election officials have not reported any potential fraud related to the grace period, many Republicans argue that eliminating it will restore public confidence in state elections. Unsubstantiated campaign conspiracies have swirled widely within the GOP since 2020, with former President Donald Trump repeatedly making false claims about losing him.
“All you have to do is read the papers and what you’re saying,” Hawkins told reporters ahead of the House vote. “I mean, people always question fraud. Is there fraud? I think we’re actually a pretty good state, but we can always improve things.”
The vote in the House was 77-45, and with two Republicans absent, supporters were at least six votes short of the 84 needed to override a veto in the 125-member house. In the 40-member Senate, the vote was 23 to 17, leaving supporters of the separate bill four votes short.
Either one house will have to pass the other’s bill to send it to Kelly, or the House and Senate will negotiate a version for both to pass. A version of the proposal is expected to clear the legislature by early April.
Supporters of eliminating the grace period have also suggested that Kansas is lagging behind most other states. Thirty-one states require a mail-in ballot to arrive by Election Day in order to be counted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kansas, Massachusetts, and Virginia have three-day grace periods.
“There’s nothing magical about that,” said state Representative Paul Wagoner, a Republican from south-central Kansas, during a debate Wednesday.
Although Kelly has not publicly stated that she would veto the measure, her office said it was concerned that the bill would prevent some voters serving in the military from having their ballots counted, depriving them of the right to vote.
Some Republicans who want to keep the grace period in place have made the same argument. Others, like many Democrats, argue that the US Postal Service has only gotten slower over the past six years.
“We should always err on the side of the voter and go out of our way to accommodate and count legal ballots,” Republican state representative Jesse Borjon, of Topeka, said in a statement read by a House employee. state office.
Republicans are also divided on whether the state should eliminate remote polling stations. The Senate passes a bill to do so Thursday by a 21-19 vote, while the House has a bill to keep them but allows Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a vocal advocate for mailboxes, to set standard rules for counties governing their use.
But a sign that campaign conspiracies still affect Republicans came earlier this month when the state GOP committee narrowly elected conspiracy instigator Mike Brown to serve as the party’s state chairman during the 2024 election. Brown also ran for secretary of state last year, losing the GOP primary to Schwab.
“The idea that people have lost faith in the election is because we have a bunch of crazy people around,” House Democrat leader Vic Miller of Topeka said during Wednesday’s debate. “Yes, if you repeat an incorrect statement often enough, unfortunately, some people start to believe it.”