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Johnson County Sheriff Investigates Election Fraud Claims

Local election officials have defended the Kansas county’s election, but the sheriff said his ongoing investigation has raised security concerns about the voting process. No subpoenas or warrants have been issued yet.

(TNS) — Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff Calvin Hayden said Monday that his office is investigating claims of election fraud, echoing Republican efforts nationwide to discredit recent local and national elections.

Local election officials have defended Johnson County's 2020 elections, though Hayden said his ongoing investigation has raised questions about the security of the voting process in Johnson County. Hayden, speaking to The Star, described the inquiry only in vague terms.

It's unclear how seriously Hayden is treating what he said is a six-month-old investigation. The sheriff's office has not issued any subpoenas or warrants, he said, though he added his investigator is "still looking into it," potentially in connection with examining the inner workings of voting machines used in Johnson County.

The two-term sheriff, who in the past has embraced right-wing causes, is set to deliver a presentation Monday night to the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives, where he is advertised as working to "get to the bottom of election integrity issues" in the county.

Hayden's investigation comes as Republicans across the country continue to push to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump. Across lawsuits, audits and partisan reviews, Trump supporters have been unable to produce evidence of fraud.

But the idea of a stolen election has become a powerful narrative within GOP politics. Kansas lawmakers have gone as far as allowing election denialists to make presentations, though Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab has batted away baseless allegations of fraud.

"We're finding that there's a lot of numbers that don't make sense and we're having a hard time getting information from our own election source," Hayden said. "We've got a lot of information and we've looked into it and there's a lot of things that don't add up to a regular guy like me.

"It's still a pending investigation, but I can tell you we have found some things and some numbers; part of them are a mathematical impossibility."

Hayden declined to go into further detail about specifics.

Local and state elections officials emphatically denied any insinuation that voter fraud impacted elections in Kansas and called any effort to raise questions about those results "baseless attacks."

"We stand by the integrity of Johnson County elections — and fully support all registered voters casting their ballots freely, safely and without intimidation — whether by mail, drop box or in person," Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman said in a statement Monday morning. "The county has implemented a wide range of measures to ensure all eligible ballots are counted and election outcomes are accurate and fair.

"Every ballot is accounted for, and returns are reconciled with the poll books and applications for advance ballots," he said. "Baseless attacks aimed at Johnson County's elections process are consistent with a concerted nationwide effort to push agendas and narratives to erode public confidence in elections."

Hayden said he assigned a single officer trained in cyber investigations to sift through an "astounding" amount of information referred to the department since the end of the 2020 election.

This isn't the first time Hayden has delved into partisan causes. Last year he declared his office a "safe haven" for officers facing vaccine requirements in other agencies.

Before the 2020 election, Hayden appeared at a "Back the Blue" rally in Overland Park hosted in support of Trump alongside Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who brandished weapons at protesters in their neighborhood that summer. The couple became popular conservative figures and Mark McCloskey is currently running in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Missouri.

Some of the information Hayden is considering in the election investigation comes from Thad Snider, a Johnson County resident who raised questions about supposed ballot custody issues and ballot drop box security to state lawmakers in early February.

Snider will present his findings to Northeast Johnson County Conservatives alongside Hayden Monday night. Snider is not directly involved in the sheriff's office investigation, even though the department is considering some of the same questions, Hayden said.

Snider's presentation to lawmakers in February included no actual evidence of voter fraud. He focused extensively on 113 ballot transfer forms from the November 2021 Johnson County election that he said were missing signatures. Snider obtained the forms through a records request.

None of the transfer documents, which record when ballots are moved, had four signatures even though each form has lines for four signatures, Snider said.

But Schwab dismissed concerns about the transfer documents. "The statute says they have to take an oath; it doesn't say they have to have four signatures," he said during a legislative hearing in early February.

"Just because there's an administrative error doesn't mean the will of the people is overturned," Schwab said.

The election, Schwab said, passed its audit — meaning there was no reason to believe fraudulent activities occurred.

(c)2022 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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