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Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins charged with felonies in voter registration case

  • July 15, 2020

Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins was charged Tuesday with four crimes, including three felonies, involving a situation in which he allegedly repeatedly signed documents listing a UPS Store in Topeka as his home address.

The charges are linked to the 2019 municipal election, in which Watkins voted but was not a candidate, said Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, who is a Republican.

Kagay said he charged Watkins, 43, with one felony count each of voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting and interference with law enforcement involving providing false information; and a misdemeanor count of failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of a Change of Address.

The charges come as Watkins prepares to run in the Aug. 4 primary against two fellow Republicans, Dennis Taylor and Kansas Treasurer Jake La Turner, for the Republican nomination for the 2nd District Congressional seat Watkins has held since January 2019.

This week’s charges were filed after an investigation conducted by the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, Kagay said.

He said that investigation, which Kagay requested after news of the alleged conduct was brought to his attention in December 2019, was delayed significantly due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Authorities contended last December that Watkins changed his residency in August 2019 for voter registration purposes, signed an application for a mail-in ballot in October 2019 and signed a document to cast his vote for the 2019 November election. The documents showed Watkins’ official residence as 6021 S.W. 29th in Topeka, which is the site of a UPS Store.

By changing his residency, Watkins moved from the Topeka City Council’s 5th District to its 8th District, where he participated in an election decided by 13 votes last month.

Dylan Jones, Watkin’s press secretary, told USA TODAY in a statement that these are “bogus charges.”

“Just like President Trump, Steve is being politically prosecuted by his opponents who can’t accept the results of the last election,” the statement continued. “…This is a desperate political attack by a desperate political campaign on its dying breath down twenty points. Jake LaTurner is hell bent on seeing Democrat’s win and undermining Republicans at every turn.”

Jim Joice, Watkins’ chief of staff, said last December that Watkins made a mistake when he listed the UPS Store as his address. Joice said the congressman actually lived in the Overlook Apartments which are about 2½ miles north of the UPS Store. Those apartments are in the council’s 9th District.

Watkins won election in 2018 by getting 26% of the vote in a seven-way primary, then defeating Paul Davis, a Democrat, in the general election.

Contributing: Savannah Behrmann 

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