Judge refuses to block enforcement of new Kansas election law

TOPEKA — A Kansas judge is allowing the state to keep enforcing a new election law and is expressing strong doubts about arguments that it hinders efforts to register and educate voters.

Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson on Thursday denied a request from four groups to temporarily block the law, concluding that they are unlikely to prevail in their lawsuit to have it struck down. The groups, including the League of Women Voters of Kansas and the voting-rights organization Loud Light, are challenging a provision making impersonating an election official a felony.

The law took effect in July and also tightens up other election rules. GOP lawmakers across the nation imposed new election restrictions this year based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud from Republicans.

A separate federal lawsuit is challenging another section of the new Kansas law that bars out-of-state groups from mailing advance ballots to voters.

In the state court case, the groups said the law was written so that their routine activities could be interpreted as impersonating election officials. But Watson said that the groups themselves said they emphasize to others that they are not election officials.

Watson also said someone has to “knowingly” impersonate an official to break the law. The judge said the groups “downplay” that fact “to the point of ignoring it.”

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