The Johnson County Sheriff claimed he received 200 voter fraud tips. A request for records yielded only one | KCUR 89.3

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said since last fall it has received more than 200 tips from people claiming to have been victims of or witnesses to fraudulent activity in local elections.

Yet the bureau has produced only one violation report related to alleged violations of Kansas election laws since 2020.

“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 Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. July 19.

So far, the Johnson County prosecutor has not received any cases from the sheriff.

“This office has not been involved in this investigation and nothing has been submitted to our office for review,” said Melody Webb, spokeswoman for Johnson County Attorney Steve Howe.

The same is true for the Office of the Kansas Secretary of State, the agency responsible for overseeing elections in the state. He said this week that he had not received any requests from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

Neither has four of the largest police departments in Kansas — Olathe, Overland Park, Lenexa and Shawnee. All said they had received no reports of election-related crimes in the past two years.

With less than a week to go before a primary election in which voters will decide, among other things, whether Kansans continue to have a constitutional right to abortion, Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, a Republican, repeatedly stated that he was investigating electoral fraud. But he explained little about the nature of his investigation.

He delivered his most detailed remarks in Las Vegas earlier this month at a convention of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group that claims to have supreme authority in county government above that of local, state and federal officials. The group called on law enforcement to investigate the results of the 2020 presidential election due to voter fraud, a claim that has been repeatedly denied.

“At these meetings, people started talking about election issues and I thought, yeah, yeah you know, OK, because I’ve always taken it for granted that elections are OK. Then the presidential election came along and there was this big reversal and in Johnson County…our guys, our election staff, finished at 8:30 at night. It was done,” Hayden said at the convention.

“And President Trump didn’t wear our county — the first time since 1914 that Johnson County didn’t vote Republican. Yeah, so that’s kind of interesting.

Hayden, who is in his second term as sheriff, spoke about his own election victory in 2020.

“You’re actually looking at a guy – I got 260,000 votes and I got more than the two presidential candidates and I’m voting,” Hayden said. “And it bothers me.”

Hayden did not tell the crowd that he ran unopposed in 2020, unlike presidential candidates.

Few people outside the sheriff’s office seem to know what Hayden and his department are investigating.

“Our office has received questions from constituents about the administrative process and concerns about fraud in Johnson County,” Whitney Tempel, a spokeswoman for the office of the Kansas secretary of state, said in an email. . “Every request received by our office is reviewed and investigated. So far, no evidence of fraud has been found.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office was again asked this week if it could describe the nature of the tips it received about alleged voter fraud or if any of the more than 200 tips it said to have received could be justified. Through a spokesperson, the sheriff’s office declined to respond.

The Midwest Newsroom filed a request to the Kansas Open Records Act for copies of the front page of any standard Kansas offense report taken by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office regarding alleged election-related crimes since 2020.

Kansas law enforcement fills out these offense reports to document reports of crimes. The front page of standard Kansas offense reports, which contain basic information such as the date an incident occurred, its location, the nature of an alleged offense and its victim or witnesses, is a document audience. The following pages, which list the suspects and a description of how the alleged crime was committed, are not a public record.

In response, a records supervisor from the sheriff’s office provided a report and said a review found no other reports since 2020.

The only report, dated July 20, lists the Johnson County election office as the location of an alleged violation of a Kansas law that prohibits attempting to alter, alter, or destroy any vote cast by paper ballot or by electronic machine.

Reached by phone, a 71-year-old Olathe woman listed as a victim of the alleged breach said she and her husband were voting early on July 19. She declined to provide details of the incident.

“I don’t know what happened, if it was just an accident,” she said before declining to discuss the matter further.

Hayden’s office and Johnson County officials, through their spokespersons, declined to discuss the incident.

The Midwest Newsroom questioned why the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office only had one violation report related to alleged election law violations after claiming to have received more than 200 tips on such violations.

The sheriff’s spokeswoman said not all cases generate a standard Kansas offense report. When the Midwest Newsroom asked for copies of the sheriff’s office policies dictating when standard infraction reports should be taken, the spokeswoman said there was no such policy.

The Midwest Newsroom reported earlier this month on a July 5 private meeting between Hayden, his deputies and Johnson County Elections Office officials to discuss election issues.

At the meeting, Hayden offered to involve law enforcement in election duties, according to a memo written by Johnson County’s chief attorney commemorating the discussion. This included sheriff’s deputies picking up ballots from ballot boxes and having deputies present when votes were counted.

Hayden also questioned why ballot boxes were available at public libraries in the 2020 election and whether election officials would eliminate them in the next election.

In a letter to Hayden, Johnson County Chief Legal Officer Peg Trent said she was concerned he was trying to meddle in an election.

“As we have discussed, my concern is that these requests create the appearance that the sheriff’s office is attempting to interfere with an election and direct a duly authorized election official as to how an election will be conducted,” Trent wrote. .

Hayden later took issue with Trent’s characterizations, but declined to provide specifics.

This story comes from the Midwest Newsroom, an investigative journalism collaboration including DPI, KCUR 89.3, Nebraska Public Media News, St. Louis Public Radio and NPR.

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