Efforts to expand access to the ballot box in Kansas in time for the presidential election face further delays because of an intensifying dispute among the Republicans in charge in Topeka.
Ten months ago the Legislature enacted a law giving voters a broader choice of polling places. But Secretary of State Scott Schwab, who took office last year, has delayed instituting the change because he says it raises security concerns — and that at least a year more is needed to ensure electronic voter lists and computer systems are ready.
Even some of his fellow Republicans at the statehouse say Schwab is creating flimsy excuses masking his disinterest in making it more convenient to vote in a year when Kansas' traditionally deep red hue is going to be tested, especially in an open-seat Senate contest.
The tussle also revives the image of Kansas as a voting rights minefield that was set when conservative Republican Kris Kobach was secretary of state and pushed for some of the country's strictest voter ID laws, including a proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters now on hold in the courts. Koback is now running for the Senate.
A controversial database used to check whether voters are registered in more than one state has been suspended until security safeguards are put in place.
Use of the Interstate Crosscheck program was put on hold as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on behalf of nearly 1,000 voters whose partial Social Security numbers were exposed by Florida officials through an open records request.
Kansas began operating the multistate program 14 years ago but it has not been used since 2017, when a federal audit discovered its security vulnerabilities.
Ranked-choice voting just made it big in the biggest town for making it — New York City. And supporters of this way of conducting elections hope to use the victory there to spread it, well, everywhere.
With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting Wednesday morning, almost three-quarters of voters (73.5 percent) endorsed bringing ranked-choice voting to the nation's biggest city. The new system, which allows people to rank as many as five candidates in order of preference, will be used in primary and special elections beginning with the races in 2021 for mayor, city council and several other municipal offices.
Known as RCV and also the instant-runoff system, ranking candidates has become one of the big election-improvement darlings of the democracy reform movement.
Less sweeping measures for improving governance were on ballots in Maine, Kansas and Denver, and all of them succeeded.
Last year was a really good year for placing democracy reform in the hands of the electorate. This year, not so much.
In the 2018 midterms, ballot proposals adopted in more than a dozen states and cities expanded the use of automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, public financing of campaigns and other democracy reform proposals.
Next week's off-year election will see only a small roster of contests with an expansion of democracy itself on the ballot, and most have relatively narrow scope and limited reach.
But good-government advocates hope a wave of victories creates momentum for a more ambitious roster of proposals to get spots on the ballot alongside the 2020 presidential election.
And while the roster of pro-democracy choices may be limited this Nov. 5, the overall number of direct-democracy opportunities is large. Not since 2007 have so many ballot measures (three dozen) gone before voters in an odd-numbered year, according to Ballotpedia.
Below are the eight items on the ballot next week that good-government advocates are watching most intently — listed alphabetically by where the voting will take place. Four are initiatives in big cities and two are statewide referenda. The others are partisan elections for offices where the future of a reliable and relatable democracy is part of what's in the offing.