TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Kansas Senate passed a bill early Thursday morning, changing the deadline for advance voting ballots to Election Day no later than 7 p.m. It would remove the current three-day grace period for mail-in-ballots to be received.
Twenty-two senators voted in favor of the plan and 17 voted against.
Some senators spoke out against the plan which would also make changes to ballot boxes.
Senate substitute bill makes a couple of changes from the House version, including regulating the use of remote ballot boxes for the return of advance ballots.
Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, who chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs committee, said the bill has a dropbox provision, which would allow one dropbox per county or a second one could be added if there are more than 30,000 residents and another one for “every 30,000 after that.” Olson said heightened security measures were also added.
“We looked at putting some security on them, so they have to be either manned or have a camera, and then there’s a protocol set up to put a disclaimer on how many ballots one person can deliver and what the penalties are if they violate the law,” Olson said.
Sen. Ethan Corson, D-Fairway, said the measure was unnecessary and would make it harder for people to vote.
“By limiting the general availability of these drop boxes, you’re just making it harder for folks. We had drop boxes in November 2020. They were used to spectacular success. We did not have any ballot security issues there,” Corson said.
The measure would also change the deadline for county election officers to provide registration of voters from 20 days prior to an election to 23 days.
In the House, some Democrats were skeptical about the plan to remove the three-day grace period.
Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka, introduced a bill in 2017 that is now the current law for receiving mail-in-ballots. That deadline allows ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received up to three days after. Miller said a change in mail services inspired him to advocate for the move, leveling the playing field for people living far away from major cities.
“Our mail goes from here to Kansas City, then to Kansas City back, which adds an additional day, often time more days,” Miller said. “It’s even worse in some parts of rural Kansas, because mail goes in some places to Nebraska, and in some places, it goes as far away as Texas.”
The bill in the House would require all advance voting ballots to be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Miller said he doesn’t understand the reason behind those changes, but he can guess.
“I think there are people up here that believe the fewer people that vote, the better off they are,” Miller said.