Kansas GOP divide foiled electoral plot promoters and tightened mail ballot procedures.

Topeka— On Tuesday, a major division among Kansas Republican lawmakers killed election conspiracy advocates' efforts to change how the state conducts elections and a GOP-backed effort to shorten mail ballot return time.

An 18-22 state Senate vote rejected a bill banning remote ballot dropping boxes and local election workers from counting ballots with electronic machines starting next year. Far-right Republicans around the U.S. have targeted drop boxes and called for hand-counting ballots, spreading wild claims that elections are rigged and bolstering former President Donald Trump's assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.

Republican senators added those elements to a bill Monday that would have abolished Kansas voters' three-day deadline to return postal ballots to local election officials. Republican critics say the grace period undermines state election results, but the regulation hasn't caused major issues.

Even if the GOP-controlled Senate passed the bill, GOP-controlled House Republicans believed vote-tabulating devices and ballot drop boxes would not pass. Ending the postal ballot grace period was risky since Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly opposes it and GOP leaders lacked the two-thirds majority to override her veto of a similar law last year.

Some Republicans planned to enact a modest bill this year and use GOP supermajorities to override Kelly's veto. GOP senators who voted against Tuesday said they would have backed a grace period ban only and that the other measures weren't examined.

“It’s a bridge too far for me to support,” said western Kansas Republican Sen. Ron Ryckman Sr. In an uncommon show of dissent inside the GOP supermajority, 11 of the 29 Senate Republicans voted no along with 11 Democrats. After the Senate modified it Monday, Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said the revisions “further undermine voter confidence and compromise election integrity.” The conservative Republican Schwab has regularly supported vote drop boxes and election integrity in Kansas.

Schwab stated, “It's unfortunate that elected officials lack trust in the democratic system that brought them into office.” Schwab is undecided about Kansas eliminating the grace period. Over worries that the USPS was slowing mail processing, lawmakers passed the policy in 2017.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that more than 30 states require postal ballots to arrive at election offices by Election Day, with diverse politics. Texas has a 5 p.m. deadline the day after polls close, while Washington has no deadline.

Voting rights groups say giving Kansas voters less time to return their votes will disenfranchise thousands, especially poor, disabled, older, and minority voters. Rep. Pat Proctor, the Republican Elections Committee chair, said Monday that the House does not want to abolish or restrict ballot drop boxes.

He remarked, “Kansans that are not neck-deep in politics — they see absolutely no issue with voting machines and, frankly, neither do I.” Conservative Republicans dismissed concerns that hand-counting would set elections back decades during the Senate debate. They also misidentified strange envelopes received in November to election offices in Kansas and at least four other states, some containing fentanyl, as ballots in drop boxes.

“The pursuit toward safe and secure elections never rests and never ends,” conservative Republican Sen. Mark Steffen from central Kansas, who drafted the section banning vote-tabulating machines, said Tuesday in support of the bill.

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