Kansas lawmakers reached a deal to bundle a handful of election-related bills Tuesday morning, including one that would require county clerks to attempt to contact voters whose advance ballots lack a valid signature.
Members of Senate and House election committees quickly negotiated a package that also involves school board elections, township oaths and the ability for an election officer to grant access to all polling sites to all county residents on election day.
All of the bills originated in the Senate. The House last week combined the ballot signatures with the polling access and passed the proposals on a 40-0 vote.
The Senate never considered the polling access, but lawmakers appeared confident the deal would be well-received.
"We're willing to take that try on it and run it through our Senate and see what their feeling is," said Sen. Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia.
The polling access bill was requested by Sedgwick County, which said it would help reduce the number of provisional ballots and make voting more convenient.
A state law requiring signatures on advance ballots to match the signature from a voter's registration file came under scrutiny last year during a closely contested GOP primary race for governor. The American Civil Liberties Union has successfully fought similar laws in other states, arguing that they disproportionately affect minority voters and that canvassing officers aren't handwriting experts.
In the Republican primary, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach beat Gov. Jeff Colyer by 343 votes. Election observers noted that advance ballots were dismissed more aggressively in Johnson County, where voters weren't notified that their ballots were in jeopardy.
Under proposed legislation, election officers would have to attempt to contact the voters to let them authenticate their ballots before they are discounted.
Not included in the bundle is a proposal to remove the power of prosecution of voter fraud from the secretary of state, a power secured by Kobach. New Secretary of State Scott Scwabb has said he doesn't want the power. The proposal wasn't considered by either chamber.
Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, said the prosecution issue likely will have to wait until next year.