When Eric Teetsel went to vote at the Heritage Center, formerly King Louie, he attempted to pull up the Kansans For Life PAC voter guide. His phone automatically connected to Johnson County’s free wireless internet access. Teetsel is the president of the Family Policy Alliance and he planned to cast votes for pro-life candidates utilizing the KFL endorsement list. He drew a blank when trying to connect to the KFL website while in the voting booth.
“It said it was blocked,” Teetsel said.
He turned off wireless and accessed the KFL endorsement list using data cell service instead.
The blocked web page made him suspicious that he couldn’t access arguably the state’s most powerful conservative organization while at a polling place.
He called KFL and a state representative and then returned to Heritage Center. He connected to the Johnson County wireless and then tried to access a variety of websites. He was able to access the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas.
“I tried KFL. It was blocked. National Organization for Women? No problem. Planned Parenthood national? No problem,” he said.
Teetsel also typed in the name of abortion doctors who work in Johnson County and had no trouble accessing their websites. He was able to access the Planned Parenthood Great Plains–the local Planned Parenthood office–without issue as well as NARAL Pro-choice America and the Southwind abortion clinic in Wichita.
“It really seemed like someone had singled out KFL and blocked their website,” Teetsel said.
Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, contacted Johnson County about the oversight. County officials told her the KFL website was blocked by a filter that screened for the word “abortion.”
The KFL website homepage only mentions the word “abortion” once. It features a link to an issues page that seeks signatures for banning dismemberment abortions.
The header of the South Wind Women’s Center website reads, “Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center is the only clinic to offer medication and surgical abortion in Wichita.” A second headers says the same thing about Oklahoma City. A third mention of the word “abortion” appears in a synopsis of the clinic’s history.
Teetsel could access that site.
The national Planned Parenthood website features the word, “abortion” twice–once in a subhead. The local Planned Parenthood site features similar mentions of the word.
Kansans for Life sends thousands of voters guides ahead of local elections endorsing candidates in municipal, school board races as well as in legislative and statewide races in even-year elections. In the Johnson County primary elections in August, KFL-endorsed candidates won in every race but one.
“We advertise for people to go look online,” Culp says. The most recent mailing to voters encouraged people to take their cellphones to the polls to access the KFL PAC endorsement list.
“That’s why we pretty much look at this as voter suppression when people can’t access it when we encouraged people to use their phones,” she said.
Teetsel voted at the end of last week, but by that time, advanced, in-person voting had been ongoing for almost a week.
“I don’t know that there’s a way to know how many voters had tried to access that there at the polls,” Teetsel says.
County officials resolved the issue so voters now can access the KFL PAC voting guide through the county’s wireless access. Culp says she doesn’t believe in coincidences, and she calls the blocked website just that.
“It’s the biggest coincidence in the world,” she says. “I don’t tend to believe in coincidences when it comes to this issue.When the issue is abortion all the rules change. That’s just the way it’s been.”
Polls for the general election open at 7 a.m. tomorrow, Nov. 7. Polls close at 7 p.m. Find your polling place here.