Johnson County Sheriff defends election inquiry after county attorney raises concerns | KCUR 89.3

a sheriff investigation of Johnson County election proceedings was launched due to more than 200 tips alleging fraud and was not an attempt to interfere with the election, Sheriff Calvin Hayden’s office said Tuesday.

A press release from the sheriff’s office defended Hayden’s use of staff time to verify unspecified allegations about the election, saying the office is simply investigating the many tips that have come to the office since 2021 regarding procedures. elections.

“Anyone who suggests that Sheriff Calvin Hayden initiated this investigation or wants to interfere with the election is woefully misinformed,” the statement read.

Additionally, the office’s statement disputes a recently released letter about Hayden’s meeting earlier this month with county officials about election security.

In this meeting, described in an internal letter to Hayden written by Chief County Legal Counsel Peg Trent, Hayden reportedly asked for a greater role for his office, which could include collecting ballots from ballot boxes and being in the room at the election office where the ballots votes are counted.

Trent also wrote in the letter that Hayden said he also had complaints or suggestions regarding drop box hours, enforcement of limits on ballots handed out in someone’s name. other and verification of signatures. These and other suggestions were rebuffed.

In Tuesday’s statement, Hayden refuted Trent’s characterization and suggested she violated state election law.

“I strongly disagree with Ms. Trent’s recollection of the events, like all the deputies who were present at this meeting. Additionally, Ms. Trent and her office knowingly violate their own laws: KSA 25-2437. We will continue to deal with Ms. Trent until we reach a successful conclusion and ensure that all election laws are followed,” Hayden said in an emailed statement that accompanied the press release.

The quote refers to a Kansas law relating to restrictions on the collection and delivery of ballots, but it was not immediately clear what Hayden meant about how that article was violated. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Shelby Colburn declined to elaborate on Tuesday night, saying the office was not releasing any more information.

Evan Johnson

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Shawnee Mission Post

Johnson County election officials are registering voters during early voting Saturday for the Aug. 2 primary.

Other county officials who were named in Trent’s letter as attending the meeting – including Elections Commissioner Fred Sherman, Assistant Elections Commissioner Josh King and Assistant County Manager Joe Waters – all testified the accuracy of Trent’s account of the July 5 meeting.

Hayden’s press release on Tuesday was the sheriff’s first response to questions about the letter and the progress of the months-old investigation since Trent’s letter became public. In Tuesday’s statement, Hayden said he was compelled to pursue the fraud allegations because of the number of counsel from people who claimed to be witnesses or victims.

“It is the legal obligation of the sheriff’s office to investigate any criminal complaint that comes to our office and to submit our findings to the district attorney’s office,” the statement said. “To fail to follow up on an investigation would be a dereliction of duty.”

Hayden has been talking about allegations of election malpractice since at least March, when he said he dedicated time to his staff to answer numerous questions from the public about election integrity.

Over the next few months, he continued to sow doubt in speeches to conservative groups telling a group that “corruption is rising to the top” and “everything I look at doesn’t smell good” and “we’re going to fix this.”

But he never gave details about the purpose of the investigation, its timeline, its progress or its cost to the county. A recent open records request to his office for this information was denied due to the ongoing criminal investigation.

Hayden’s press release issued Tuesday said releasing the information prematurely would “immediately compromise the integrity of the investigation and lose the trust of citizens who bring allegations of criminal misconduct to our office.”

“This is a non-partisan issue,” the statement continued. “Our citizens want to have and deserve to have confidence in their local elections.”

Meanwhile, county officials, including Sherman, supported the integrity of the election. Trent’s letter echoed this, saying: “The County, in turn through the Commissioner of Elections, will fulfill the roles and responsibilities assigned to it and will continue to conduct fair and impartial elections for the citizens of the County. “.

The ACLU of Kansas also reacted on Monday to the disclosure of Hayden’s request for a greater role in election security, saying he was “deeply troubled” by it. Some of Hayden’s suggestions would intimidate voters, the organization said. For example, the presence of law enforcement at polling places is a form of voter intimidation prohibited by state law, the group said.

“His pursuit of a criminal investigation that no one but himself appears to have requested is deeply concerning, especially when accompanied by proposals that could violate state law and intimidate voters.” , says the press release from the group.

This story was originally published at Shawnee Mission Post.


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