Prosecutors drop last voter fraud case brought by Kobach

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Local prosecutors have dropped the last voter fraud case brought by former Secretary of State of Kris Kobach because of a lack of evidence.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed two counts of election perjury and one count of voting without qualifying that were lodged against Sergio Salgado-Juarez.

The case filed against Salgado-Juarez two years ago was transferred to the district attorney before Kobach left office. Local prosecutors received the case long after it was first filed.

District Attorney Steve Howe said in an interview that his investigators tried to strengthen the case after it was turned over to his office for prosecution.

“We determined from our follow-up investigation that we had some evidentiary problems with proving our case,” he said.

“I felt like this was a legitimate case actually of a noncitizen voting,” Howe said, “but we had problems being able to prove the identity of the person who actually voted on that day.”

He noted that this kind of case can be hard to prove since voting is a private matter.

“The problem is being able to determine who the witnesses are, determine who can identify him as the person that actually voted on that day,” Howe said. “Those are the traps that we fall into in that voting process.”

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Scott Schwab deferred comment to the district attorney. She noted that the case was transferred to the district attorney before Schwab took office.

“We don’t have any insight into why that decision was made,” Katie Koupal said of the decision to dismiss the case.

The case against Salgado-Juarez was the last of the 15 cases Kobach brought under a state law passed in 2015 that gave him the ability to prosecute voter fraud. He was the only election official to have the power to prosecute cases.

It was one of Kobach’s signature — and controversial — accomplishments during his two terms as secretary of state.

During his eight years as secretary, Kobach engendered national controversy in his effort to crack down on voter fraud, including his unsuccessful defense of a state law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote.

It potentially could be one his undoings if he’s nominated for a position in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Lawmakers sought to remove that authority from the secretary of state’s office, but the bill died on the House calendar for this year.

Backed by Schwab and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the legislation would have left the prosecution authority with the attorney general as well as county and district attorneys.

Schwab’s office currently doesn’t have a prosecutor and, unlike Kobach, the current secretary of state isn’t a lawyer.

“Many bills like this are filed and even passed out of committee each year, but never make it through the process,” House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said in a statement.

“We are in the first year of a two-year biennium. I would expect this legislation to receive consideration next year.”

Overall, the secretary of state secured guilty pleas or convictions in all but one of the 14 other cases, according to a list provided by the secretary’s office to the Sunflower State Journal last year.

The list included 13 cases, not counting the two that were dropped. Fines ranged from $500 to $6,000. No one served any jail time.

Most of them involved voters casting ballots in two states. Only twice were noncitizens charged with fraud. In one case, a Peruvian national voted three times in Sedgwick County. In the second, Salgado-Juarez was charged in Johnson County.

Here’s a complete roundup of all the other cases brought by the secretary of state since 2015. The sources for the information are the secretary of state’s office and research.

Steven Gaedtke
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: Voted by advance ballot in Kansas and in person in Arkansas while traveling back and forth between both states in retirement. Pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful voting. Two other counts dismissed. Lawyer said it was an honest mistake.
Penalty: $500 fine

Betty Gaedtke
Disposition: Case dropped
Circumstance: She was charged along with her husband in this case. Secretary of state’s office determined it was her husband who violated the law and dropped the case just before it was set for trial.

Lincoln Wilson
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: Sherman County Republican — and a supporter of President Donald Trump — was accused of voting illegally in Kansas and Colorado in 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections. He spent $50,000 fighting the case before pleading guilty in 2017.
Penalty: Fined $6,000 plus $158 in court costs

Michael Hannum
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: Accused of voting illegally in Kansas and Nebraska. Hannum said he had been traveling frequently between Kansas and Nebraska to visit his family following his father’s death. At one point, Hannum said local prosecutors had interviewed him and closed their case because they didn’t believe the voting was deliberate.
Penalty: $5,500 fine and court costs

James H. Criswell
Disposition: No contest plea
Circumstances: Accused of voting in Kansas and Colorado during the 2016 general election.
Penalty: $1,000 fine plus $158 in court costs

Randall K. Kilian
Disposition: No contest plea
Circumstances: Snagged in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program for voting in Kansas and Colorado in 2012. He cast a ballot in Colorado that year to vote against the legalization of marijuana. He said Ellis County authorities questioned him in 2012 and agreed he hadn’t done anything to intentionally violate the law.
Penalty: $2,500 fine plus $203 in court costs and booking fees

Ron Weems
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: He had homes in Kansas and Colorado. His attorney said Weems cast ballots in both states, only intending to vote in local elections. He didn’t vote twice for statewide and federal candidates, the lawyer said.
Penalty: $5,500 fine

Sharon Farris
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: Accused of double voting in Colorado and Kansas.
Penalty: $3,000 fine plus $158 in court costs

Lee Arthur Orr
Disposition: Alford plea
Circumstances: Accused of casting a ballot at Grace Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., and as an early voter in Wyandotte County.
Penalty: $500 fine and $200 in attorney fees

Preston G. Christensen
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: Accused of voting in Kansas and Texas.
Penalty: $1,000 fine

David Haddock
Disposition: Guilty plea to a reduced charge of disorderly election conduct.
Circumstances: Accused of voting in Franklin County and in Colorado in the same election.
Penalty: $1,000 fine plus $558 in court costs and lab fee

Victor David Garcia Bebek
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: A Peruvian national, Bebek was accused of illegally voting in three Sedgwick County elections in 2012 and 2014. It was the first prosecution of a noncitizen for voting illegally. He pleaded guilty in 2017.
Penalty: $5,000 fine

Que J. Fullmer
Disposition: Guilty plea to one count of false swearing to an affidavit to obtain a ballot.
Circumstances: Accused of voting in Colorado and just across the border in Hamilton County, Kan.
Penalty: $1,000 fine plus $558 in court costs and lab fee

Bailey McCaughey*
Disposition: Guilty plea
Circumstances: A college student voting for the first time in 2016, McCaughey cast a ballot in Kansas without knowing her mother had cast a mail-in ballot for her in Colorado. She said it was an “honest mistake.”
Penalty: $500 fine plus $158 in court costs

*Guilty plea could not be independently verified.