The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments Friday in a case that has the potential to upend current and future election laws in Kansas, subjecting them to the highest possible legal bar.
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, is asking the court to overturn a court of appeals decision that, earlier this year, determined voting is a fundamental right in Kansas. The ruling referenced a landmark 2019 case finding a right to abortion in the state constitution. That case, the appeals decision said, ruled that any fundamental right should be evaluated with strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny a high legal bar requiring any restrictions on a right to be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest.
If the Kansas Supreme Court upheld that ruling, Kansas lawmakers could have a much more difficult time passing limits on ballot access and advance voting in the future.
Kobach argued it would also throw existing Kansas election regulations into question. “Those who wish to change our election laws would be able to mount a credible challenge to the vast majority of what people consider commonplace, completely reasonable restrictions like closing elections at seven o’clock,” Kobach told reporters after Friday’s arguments.
The case centers on two policies lawmakers approved in 2021 following former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about election fraud in the 2020 election. Though Kansas elections are already secure, lawmakers sought to increase that security by requiring signature matching on advance ballots and limiting the number of advanced ballots one person could return on behalf of others.
Elisabeth Frost, an attorney for Elias Law Group, a national firm focused on election law, argued the Legislature approved those policies with insufficient vetting. Even if the goal was to prevent election fraud, Frost argued, these laws would not do that. They would, she said, make it harder to vote.