Explainer: Are amendment signs legal at churches assigned as polling places?

A 'Vote Yes' sign on the property of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in west Wichita is legally place...
A 'Vote Yes' sign on the property of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in west Wichita is legally place although the church will become a polling site on Aug. 2 where voters where decide whether to vote yes or no on a constitutional amendment regarding abortion.(KWCH)
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 5:15 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - While some Kansans vote early in the primary election, thousands will vote on Aug. 2. Primary Election Day.

Some people have expressed concern that their polling location might currently has a ‘Vote Yes’ sign on the property, bringing more attention to Kansas election laws.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic Church is one of several churches with a ‘Value the’ Both sign out front. Next week, it will become a location where some west Wichita voters cast their ballots on the constitutional amendment.

Electioneering
Electioneering(KWCH)

Calling electioneering laws into question isn’t something new for this year’s primary. Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis said it happened when he ran for office years ago.

“My opponent put a lot of signs up and down Central and all around the church, and a lot of my supporters called me to ask ‘Is that legal?’ So the question this year is not something that’s new to me,” said the commissioner.

Dennis, who supports the amendment, said in general, churches have a legal right to keep up their ‘Value Them Both’ signs.

Commissioner Lacey Cruse, who is against the amendment, agrees because according to Kansas law, the signs don’t specifically represent a particular party or candidate.

“It’s kind of unfortunate,” said Cruse, “but that’s how the law reads right now. So, they’re within their legal right to do it.”

But, once a church becomes a voting site, the rules change on Election Day.

Whether it’s a church on private property or a public building, no signs favoring a candidate, a party, or either supporting or opposing a ballot question are allowed... at least not within a 250-foot radius from the entrance.

“A lot of our churches are on very large lots, so having them at least 250 feet away is very easy for them to do,” said Dennis.

So as long as it’s far enough away from the door - it’s legal.

Whether the signs will actually influence voters at the last minute is a tough question to answer. Commissioners Cruse and Dennis both said that’s why it’s important to do your research to figure out where you stand.

“A person that’s engaged. I don’t know that they’ll be persuaded by a sign at the polls,” said Cruse. “Whatever way you vote, whether you want to vote yes or want to vote no, you should know what you’re voting for.”

Many churches in Wichita have also been polling locations for years, and officials say they know the state laws well.

If you still need to get out and vote, you can find your polling place or satellite voting locations here.

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