“We have a certain segment of the Republican Party that votes as an independent or as a Democrat, and it’s because of issues like this,” Longbine told reporters after the committee vote.
Republicans have long enjoyed an advantage among registered voters in Kansas, and the Legislature has a GOP majority. But supporters of restricting or eliminating mailboxes altogether are likely to need a two-thirds majority to override an expected veto by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who narrowly won re-election in November.
Earlier this month, election conspiracy promoters showed their influence within the Kansas GOP when its state committee narrowly elected election conspiracy promoter Mike Brown as state president during the 2024 election Brown wants to ban all polling boxes and unsuccessfully challenged Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a vocal supporter of polling boxes, in last year’s Republican primary.
“Voters’ confidence in the integrity of our elections has definitely declined over the years, and anything we can do to create some sort of firewall against fraud — early, before it happens — I think is a good thing,” he said Sen. Alicia Straub, Republican from central Kansas.
Republicans have a 7-2 majority on the Senate committee, but Longbine and GOP state Senator Ron Ryckman Sr., from Southwest Kansas, joined the two Democrats on the committee in a no vote.
Schwab is supporting another bill before the House to allow it to set standards for counties’ use and monitoring of mailboxes. He told a Senate committee during a hearing on Monday that his bill could force voters to rely on the United States Postal Service to deliver ballots in the mail.
“Why in God’s green earth would you want the federal post office or the federal government to handle your vote?” Schwab said. “I received a Christmas card last week.”
However, the bill has strong support from Schwab’s predecessor as secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who was elected Kansas attorney general last year. Kobach has long promoted the idea that voter fraud is potentially rife and argued in Monday’s hearing that the bill would help stop the “collecting of ballots.”
When Kansas Republicans use that term, they mean to have one person deliver multiple ballots for other people at the polling offices. In 2021, GOP lawmakers restricted people from returning 10 ballots for others, overriding Kelly’s veto on the measure.
There have been no reports of third-party delivery of ballot fraud in Kansas, and pro-voters advocates believe the law hinders poor, elderly, and disabled voters from receiving and counting ballots.
But Kobach told the Senate committee on Monday, “You have to decide, do we want to keep our crime against ballot collection? And if you do, do you want it to be enforceable or unenforceable?