“Kansas Supreme Court finds Kansans have no ‘fundamental right’ to vote. What it means”

KC Star:

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that voting is not a fundamental right protected by the Kansas Constitution. The landmark decision on voting rights Friday is likely to weaken legal challenges to future voting restrictions in Kansas.

The majority opinion reversed a 2023 appeals court decision that recognized any restrictions on the fundamental right to vote would be subject to the highest legal bar for evaluation, or strict scrutiny. Justice Caleb Stegall wrote for the majority, saying voting is instead a “political right” under the Kansas Constitution that has a lower bar for regulation than fundamental rights. “But just because the right to vote is not protected in our Bill of Rights does not mean that constitutional voting guarantees are somehow weak or ineffective,” Stegall wrote. “Quite the contrary.” Stegall wrote that for a voting law or regulation to be found unconstitutional, it must pass the “Butts test,” which means “the law must be shown to unreasonably burden the right to suffrage.” If voting were found to be a fundamental right, the burden would be on the government to show new voting laws or regulations are narrowly tailored and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest. Three justices wrote dissenting opinions, arguing the majority opinion overturns longstanding case law and will have wide-ranging consequences for voting rights in Kansas….

The Kansas Legislature passed three such voting laws in 2021 that were challenged by the League of Women Voters, Loud Light and other civic groups, who claimed the laws violated the right to free speech, stifled the right to vote, and violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protections and due process. One law would make it a felony to impersonate an election official. Another would add new signature matching requirements for absentee ballots. The court’s 96-page opinion ruled these laws did not inhibit free speech nor did they place additional qualifications for voters to meet. Both were sent back to lower courts. A third law, which was upheld by the court, restricts the number of absentee ballots that could be delivered on the behalf of others to 10. The Supreme Court opened the door for a lower court to block the state from enforcing the false representation of an election official law. The lower court originally decided against blocking it.

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