VoteAmerica v. Schwab (Amicus)

Location: Kansas
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: September 14, 2023

What's at Stake

Civic engagement organizations play a critical role in promoting the right to vote, including by helping people register to vote. Kansas passed a law restricting those civic engagement efforts, prohibiting organizations from sending pre-filled applications for mail ballots to voters. The Kansas law is part of a nationwide trend of restricting the right to vote by imposing burdens on civic engagement organizations.

In a victory for voting rights, a federal district court sided with two civic engagement organizations that challenged the Kansas law, concluding that it violated the First Amendment. When the state appealed that decision to the Tenth Circuit, the ACLU—joined by our affiliate in Kansas and O’Melveny & Myers LLP—filed an amicus brief to emphasize the force of the First Amendment protections afforded to the political speech at issue in this case.

As the Supreme Court has explained, speech encouraging others to participate in the political process “is an essential mechanism of democracy,” because it “is the means to hold officials accountable to the people” and “to achieve political change.” As a result, the First Amendment’s protections are at their zenith when applied to this kind of core political speech.

We urged the court to resist the state’s efforts to weaken those protections just because that speech is tangentially related to the electoral process. These efforts to diminish the First Amendment’s force are especially wrongheaded when it comes to laws regulating speech by third-party civic engagement organizations, which do not implicate the state’s interest in regulating electoral mechanics, and serve only to punish third parties for encouraging people to vote.

This case is currently pending before the Tenth Circuit.

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