Secretary of State Scott Schwab predicted Tuesday regulations necessary to implement a state law allowing Kansans to vote at the polling station of their choice won't be completed in time for the August or November elections in 2020.
Schwab told members of the Senate's election committee that technical considerations, including cellphone coverage problems, in the state's 105 counties made the process of drafting rules complex. The program won't be finalized until 2021, he said.
The voting reform bill signed last year by Gov. Laura Kelly was inspired by a proposal from Sedgwick County officials.
"They are not going to be ready by this year simply because we don't want to screw up," the secretary of state said. "If we rushed it through for this year, I promise you there would be a lot of mistakes."
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said voters in Sedgwick County expected to be able to cast ballots in the 2020 election at the polling station most convenient to them rather than a location assigned by election officials. She recommended the secretary of state's office conduct a statewide public-service campaign to notify potential voters about the delay.
"Back home in Wichita ... a lot of people are looking forward to this. They thought it would be ready for the August primary," Faust-Goudeau said.
Schwab said he was convinced foreign governments would attempt to disrupt the U.S. election process in a bid to make it appear democracies were unstable. Agents of Iran, China, Russia and North Korea are well aware that U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is retiring and that candidates seeking that seat include Kris Kobach, Susan Wagle, Roger Marshall and Barbara Bollier, he said.
"They also know that Mike Pompeo, a potential presidential candidate in the future, is still looking into it," Schwab said.
The secretary of state's office intends to use millions of dollars of federal funding to shield from hacking the poll books used in Kansas to monitor individuals who cast votes. The plan is to hire a state employee in Schwab's office to work as an election security commissioner. In the future, Schwab said, federal grants could be used to help counties update election machines.
Schwab said staff in his office should be contacted by political candidates who believe a photograph or video image of them posted to social media has been intentionally distorted to present a false impression. He said the secretary of state's office would appeal to social media companies to take down the offending representation of a candidate.
The 2020 Legislature should resist the temptation to aggressively change Kansas election law, Schwab said.
"Please do not do much drastic change in elections. If you change one thing in a law, it creates a lot of things on our end to make sure clerks are trained appropriately," he said. "When you start getting those moving pieces in an election year, it can create a lot of voter confusion."