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Johnson County D.A. investigates voter fraud cases

TOPEKA | Clearly, Johnson County doesn’t have the mucky politics of a Chicago or a Louisiana. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t election shenanigans.

Just last year alone, there were five cases of voter fraud reported in Johnson County. Four were sent to the DA for investigation, including one that the top election official suspected might be prosecuted.

Over in Wyandotte County, 25 cases of voter fraud were referred to the DA. Seventeen of those cases involved felons voting illegally. They cast provisional ballots, which were later not counted. In four cases, voters signed affidavits claiming they lived in Wyandotte County. There were four other instances when voters tried to cast ballots more than once.

The numbers were contained in the report of 221 cases of voter fraud that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been using to make his case for a new voter ID law. The cases reportedly occurred from 1997 to 2010. Twenty-eight of the cases were in Johnson County.

Kobach submitted the numbers to the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee this morning as the panel held the first of two hearings on a bill that would require voters to show an ID when the vote. Supporters were heard today. Opponents will be heard tomorrow. The bill has already passed in the House.

The Johnson County case that appeared to be the most serious involved a voter who lived over a bar in Missouri but voted in Kansas in 2006, 2008 and again in 2010. Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby said the voter used his ex-wife’s address in Kansas.

The case was turned over to District Attorney Steve Howe for investigation. It was immediately unclear this morning whether charges would be brought.

Newby said the case was flagged when the election office sent out cards confirming the residency of voters. The card was mailed back, saying the voter in question didn’t live at the Johnson County residence.

The voter was listed as inactive but averted being expunged from the voter rolls when he showed up to vote. Eventually, election officials investigated and found that he’s been voting in Kansas even though he lives in Missouri.

PrimeBuzz is awaiting word from Howe’s office about the status of the investigation.

Meanwhile, there were three other cases last year where voters cast ballots in advance and then tried to vote at the polls. Those cases also were referred to the DA, but none were prosecuted, Newby said. In one case, the voter apparently suffered from Alzheimer’s and in another the DA decided not to prosecute, Newby said. In the third case, prosecutors weren’t able to reach the suspect, Newby said.

Newby said the proposed voter ID law would have prevented the case of the Missouri resident casting ballots in Kansas. It also might have prevented a case from 2008 when a non-U.S. citizen registered and voted in Johnson County in 2008. No action was taken in that case, according to Kobach’s chart.

Newby testified on behalf of the voter ID bill. He said a number of local voters who want to show an ID at the polls. “I believe overall voter confidence in the election process will increase if persons are required to show ID when voting.”

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