Court Suspends 100-Year-Old Kansas Law That Limited Ballot Access Based on Length of Political Party's Name

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
October 7, 2002 12:00 am

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KANSAS CITY-A federal district court in Topeka today ordered Kansas’ Secretary of State to suspend a 100-year-old law — the only one of its kind in the nation — that unfairly restricts access to election ballots by limiting the names of political parties to two words, one of which must be “party.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project filed the lawsuit, Natural Law Party of Kansas v. Thornburgh in August on behalf of the Natural Law Party of Kansas and Nancy Brune, a Kansas voter and a supporter of the Natural Law Party.

“The court understood the antiquated law to be a relic of partisan politics from the turn of the 20th century,” said Bryan Sells, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and lead counsel in the case. “The Natural Law Party as well as other groups seeking to legitimately participate in the political process may now do so.”

According to the ACLU complaint, the state statute deprived the Natural Law Party the opportunity to increase party name recognition through the petitioning process and limited the party’s ability to inform Kansas’ voters of its affiliation with the ideas and positions espoused by the Natural Law Party’s national organization.

Today’s court order directs the state to recommend to the state legislature that it repeal or amend the restrictive law (Section 25-304 of the state code) to the extent that it limits the names of political parties to two words, one of which must be “party.”

“I’m thrilled that the court has cleared the way for this law to be changed,” said Nancy Brune, a named plaintiff in the case. “As a resident and voter of this state I should have the opportunity to vote for the candidate and party of my choice.”

The Natural Law Party is a national political party founded in April 1992. It identifies itself as “America’s fastest growing new party” and seeks to “bring the light of science into politics” by supporting programs such as prevention-oriented health care.

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