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Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State, speaks in the course of a “Keep Kansas Great” bus tour at VFW Park in Tonganoxie, Kansas, on Oct. 7, 2020.

syang@kcstar.com

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas states the state’s open records legislation may well as properly not exist if Secretary of Condition Scott Schwab is allowed to preserve community information and facts hidden by reconfiguring program.

Attorney Josh Pierson argued Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court for the release of provisional ballot details requested by Davis Hammet, a voter rights advocate who hoped to educate the community about why their ballots weren’t remaining counted.

Hammet won a lawsuit past year above no matter if particulars about provisional ballots are a general public report, and District Judge Teresa Watson ordered Schwab to transform the information and facts above. The Republican secretary of state, whose agency oversees elections and manages a statewide voter database, in its place purchased software engineers to eliminate the database function that allows the agency to generate the documents.

The secretary then denied Hammet’s ask for on the grounds that the records no for a longer time exist.

Schwab’s office instructed Hammet he could nevertheless get obtain to the info, but only if he compensated $522 for the database vendor, Election Units & Software package, to retrieve it. Hammet sued again, with aid from the ACLU.

“This is gamesmanship,” Pierson claimed. “This was an try by the secretary to not have to develop these documents that he litigated to not have to deliver. He lost. He took matters into his individual hands.”

The proposed $522 payment is an unnecessary “roadblock” intended to discourage requests for community data, Pierson reported.

Pierson and Garrett Roe, an legal professional for Schwab’s agency, are asking Watson to problem summary judgment in the scenario. Roe argued that the Kansas Open Documents Act (KORA) only necessitates businesses to transform about current records, and claims nothing of program management.

“There’s nothing in KORA that involves an company to continue on to manage a database functionality it does not want to use,” Roe reported.

The state statute governing open up documents legislation wasn’t created for the contemporary age, wherever paperwork are stored electronically, Pierson argued. KORA passed in 1984, and replaced a law that experienced been on the guides considering that 1957. Nevertheless, KORA declares the coverage of the point out is that general public documents must be open up for inspection, and the regulation need to be “liberally construed to market these kinds of coverage.”

Pierson mentioned the choose could enable the concepts of the regulation guide her choice, but Watson pushed back again on the notion of generating a new lawful common where no other scenario law exists.

“We’re likely a stage further than ‘KORA needs the agency to present what they have’ to telling the authorities agency, ‘You should be able to provide this,’ ” Watson reported.

Pierson reported public agencies shouldn’t be allowed to clean their hands of their obligation to convert over general public information and facts because they are disappointed with a records request.

“It are not able to be how KORA features — if not, we could as perfectly not have KORA alone,” Pierson said.

Hammet is the president of Loud Light, which encourages civic participation.

Just about every election cycle, tens of hundreds of Kansans who failed to update their registration following shifting or who are questioned about the validity of a signature on a mail-in ballot can file provisional ballots, which are meant to be counted if the scenario is corrected

Loud Mild also is associated in individual litigation around modern changes to election legislation.

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