TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A freshman Kansas congressman is accused of providing false information to a sheriff’s deputy to hamper an investigation into whether he broke state election laws by listing a UPS Inc. store postal box as his residence on a state voter registration form.
Republican Rep. Steve Watkins has been charged in state district court with two election fraud felonies, felony interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor count of failing to inform the state’s Division of Vehicles of an address change. The charges were announced Tuesday evening by the district attorney in Shawnee County, which includes Watkins’ hometown of Topeka, the state capital.
But Kagay’s announcement did not provide any details about the charges, and he declined to discuss them. The Associated Press on Wednesday obtained a copy of the criminal complaint that Kagay’s office filed.
Watkins called the charges “hyper-political” and said he looks forward to clearing his name.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Watkins said Tuesday evening during the only televised debate for GOP candidates before the state’s Aug. 4 primary election. “We’ve cooperated with the district attorney completely.”
The charges against Watkins came three weeks before the state’s Aug. 4 primary election with fellow Republicans pushing to oust him from the eastern Kansas seat he won in 2018. In the primary, Watkins faces State Treasurer Jake LaTurner and Dennis Taylor, a Topeka attorney, businessman and former top administrator at several state agencies.
The UPS postal box was listed as Watkins’ residential address for voter registration purposes when he cast a mail-in ballot for a local City Council and school board election in November 2019. He later changed his residential listing to an apartment about 2 miles north of the UPS store — in a different city council district with no race last year.
Watkins has said he simply made a mistake by listing his mailing address instead of his residential address on the voter registration form and then corrected it.
Watkins faces a felony charge of voting without being qualified, and the complaint against him alleges that he voted in the race in the City Council district where the UPS store was located. Another felony charge, unlawful advance voting, alleges that Watkins falsely affirmed to a “material fact” in a form for a mail ballot.
The misdemeanor charge alleges that Watkins failed to comply with a state law requiring people to report a change of address to the state Division of Vehicles within 10 days of making the change.
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