Politics & Government

Kansas Supreme Court asked to order grand jury on Kobach

File photo

A former legislative candidate is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to force a grand jury investigation of Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Steven X. Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said Tuesday that he has asked the state’s highest court to require that the Douglas County District Court summon a grand jury. Davis said in a statement that the jury needs to investigate Kobach because of rumors that his office intentionally suppressed voter registration. Davis does say that his evidence is slim.

By law, people in Kansas can call for a grand jury investigation by gathering a specific number of signatures. Six states, including Kansas, let citizens petition for a grand jury. Davis said he successfully gathered the signatures and submitted them in late July.

A Douglas County judge dismissed the petition earlier this month. In the dismissal, chief judge Robert Fairchild said there weren’t enough facts for the petition to move forward.

Davis, 27, is a freelance copy editor who recently lost the House District 44 Democratic primary against longtime incumbent Barbara Ballard.

In a phone interview, he said there was no way for him to get the kind of facts that could bring a criminal charge against Kobach. That, Davis said, would be up to the courts.

Kobach said the Kansas law that allows for a grand jury petition is fine, though he doesn’t agree with how Davis has used it. The secretary of state also dismissed Davis’ petition as nonsensical, citing the Democrat’s lack of information.

“The law doesn’t permit randomly going after a public figure with vague allegations unsupported by any facts,” Kobach said. “… I actually think our law is excellent.”

“The law is not intended for ill-conceived, vague allegations like Mr. Davis’,” Kobach added. “That’s why I’m confident his effort isn’t going to go anywhere.”

Mark Johnson, a lawyer who teaches election law at the University of Kansas, has been been critical of Kobach in the past. But in this case, Johnson said, he has no reason to believe the secretary has done anything wrong.

“(I’m critical of him) when he deserves it,” Johnson said. “I don’t think he deserves it here.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw