Law prohibiting electioneering within 250 feet of polling site is constitutional, judge rules

The 2020 general election is Nov. 3
The 2020 general election is Nov. 3(Allison Baker)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 4:30 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - A federal judge Wednesday (Oct. 7, 2020) ruled that a Kansas law prohibiting electioneering within 250 feet of a polling site is constitutional and does not infringe on First Amendment rights, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.

District Judge Holly Teeter dismissed a challenge brought against Schmidt and the Johnson County Election commissioner by a group called Kansas for Change, Inc. and individuals from Douglas, Johnson and Sedgwick counties.

The group claimed their rights to free speech were violated by the state’s restriction on interacting with voters within 250 feet of polling sites. In her ruling, Judge Teeter pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that rejected a challenge to a similar law in Tennessee.

The judge said all 50 states have laws restricting electioneering to address problems of voter intimidation and election fraud. With the Supreme Court ruling, she said the high court decided “that there is a compelling interest in protecting citizens' right to vote and preserving election integrity that justifies limits on electioneering near polling places.”

Electioneering is defined as “wearing, exhibiting or distributing labels, signs, posters or other materials that clearly identify a candidate in the election or indicate support or opposition to a question submitted (in the election) within any polling place on election day or advance voting site during the time period allowed by law,” Schmidt explained in a Wednesday news release on the judge’s ruling.

“I appreciate Judge Teeter’s ruling that the Constitution permits, and history and common sense favor, these sorts of laws that preserve the right to vote and ensure the integrity of Kansas elections,” said Schmidt, who noted that the Kansas electioneering statute has been on the books since the 1960s. “These laws permit all eligible voters to make their voices heard without intimidation, which goes to the heart and soul of our democratic process.”

In her ruling, Judge Teeter noted that non-partisan voter-assistance activities or signage within 250 feet of a polling entrance does not constitute electioneering because this doesn’t attempt to persuade or influence voters.

You can read the judge’s decision in its entirety here: Ruling on electioneering law.

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