TOPEKA — An independent Kansas congressional candidate promised Friday to file a federal lawsuit after a state board refused to put him on the ballot in the 3rd District.
Wayne Briscoe, a telecommunications account manager from Eudora, contends the secretary of state's office was overly technical in reviewing signatures he collected. Kansas law requires an independent candidate to obtain 5,000 signatures from registered voters.
Briscoe submitted petitions with about 7,600 signatures, but the secretary of state's office, working with county election officials, determined that fewer than 2,600 were valid. Briscoe challenged that finding, but the State Objections Board ruled against him Friday.
He wants to challenge Democrat Stephene Moore, of Lenexa, the wife of retiring Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore, and Republican Kevin Yoder, of Overland Park, chairman of the Kansas House Appropriations Committee.
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A Libertarian candidate, Jasmin Talbert, of Kansas City, Kan., also is on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
Briscoe said after the board's meeting that he hadn't expected to prevail and plans to file his lawsuit early next week.
"To gain ballot access is an actual fundamental right," Briscoe said during the board's meeting. "What we see going on here is, in fact, technicalities used in order to prevent independent candidates from being able to successfully petition to gain ballot access."
The objections board is made up of the secretary of state, the attorney general and the lieutenant governor. It reviews decisions by the secretary of state's office about which candidates appear on the ballot. Secretary of State Chris Biggs, Attorney General Steve Six and Lt. Gov. Troy Findley are all Democrats.
Six said while the state and federal constitutions protect voters and candidates' rights to participate in elections, federal courts have consistently upheld election rules — including a rule used to invalidate many of the signatures collected by Briscoe and his supporters.
"Despite these constitutional protections, the state has a substantial interest in regulating elections, to create order, to create timeliness," Six said.
Briscoe had been a lifelong Republican but decided to run as an independent after concluding that voters were disgusted with both parties. He filed his petitions Aug. 2, the deadline.
State law requires people circulating each petition to sign a statement that they witnessed each voter's signature. But in the case of Briscoe and his supporters, signatures on petitions were added after circulators signed their statements — meaning his supporters couldn't have witnessed voters' signatures.
More than 3,600 of Briscoe's signatures were invalidated for that reason.
Briscoe said information provided by the secretary of state's office for independent candidates wasn't clear about the rule. He also said the secretary of state's office still should have had the questionable signatures checked against voter registration lists.
He also argued that by signing their statements, petition circulators were only affirming their duty to make sure all signatures were valid. But Six said assuming each voter signature must be witnessed is a "commonsense" reading of state law.